A local government official says Pakistan's military has started shelling Taliban hideouts in Bannu district in the country's northwest.

Bannu's district coordination officer, Kamran Zeb Khan, told the Associated Press the military operation began Tuesday morning after a deadline given to tribal leaders in the region to hand over militant suspects had expired.

Bannu sits alongside South and North Waziristan, two semiautonomous tribal districts bordering Afghanistan where Al Qaeda and the Taliban are believed to be entrenched.

Pakistan has launched an offensive against the Taliban in the northwestern Swat Valley. It was not immediately clear if the shelling in Bannu signaled the opening of a new front against militants.