A government official says Pakistan's army has killed at least nine suspected militants in a northwest tribal region near the Afghan border.

Mohammed Yasin says the military used helicopter gunships to destroy three militant hide-outs in the Orakzai area early Friday.

Many Pakistani Taliban fighters are believed to have fled to Orakzai since the army launched a major offensive against them in the South Waziristan tribal region in October.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has also hinted the army will pursue a full-scale offensive in Orakzai.

The U.N. says around 40,000 people have already fled the region.