( dpa ) - Around 100 pro-Taliban militants were killed in Pakistan's restive tribal region bordering Afghanistan in clashes with the security forces, Pakistani army chief spokesman said Friday.
"A security forces convoy was attacked in Chakmalai area of South Waziristan with rocket fire and small arms at around 12:00 local time (0700 GMT), which was retaliated with small arms and mortars," said military spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas.
The firefight continued for almost one hour and left 20 to 30 militants dead and four security personnel injured. "Two military vehicles were also damaged in the clashes," he added.
In another incident, insurgents fired dozens of rockets at a military fort in the same district, triggering a firefight that killed up to 60 rebels.
There were no Pakistani troop casualties in the latter incident as the security forces used long-range artillery and rockets.
The Chakmalai attackers were believed to be the followers of the pro-Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud whose men forced the security forces this week to vacate two strategic border outposts set up in colonial era forts. The military spokesman however denied that the rebels had overrun the second fort.
Helicopter gunships engaged two vehicles in the vicinity of Sipla Toi fort in South Waziristan overnight, killing eight "miscreants" on Thursday night, Abbas said. Several others were injured.
Pakistan's tribal region is believed to harbour al-Qaeda terrorists and Taliban fighters who fled to the area after the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001. Local commanders like Mehsud have provided them with shelter and assisted them in launching cross-border attacks on international forces in Afghanistan.
President Pervez Musharraf, a key US ally in the war against terror, has accused Mehsud of ordering several suicide bombings targeting security officials and politicians, including former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who was slain December 27 in a gun and bomb attack in Rawalpindi.
US intelligence agents supported the assertion on Friday.
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Michael Hayden told the Washington Post newspaper that fighters commanded by Mehsud, with support from the al-Qaeda terrorist network, had killed the Pakistani opposition leader.
"You've got this nexus now that probably was always there in latency but is now active: a nexus between al-Qaeda and various extremist and separatist groups," he said, describing the killing as part of "an organized campaign" to target Pakistani leaders.
Mehsud has previously denied responsibility, saying the attack might have been masterminded by rogue elements within Pakistan's own intelligence agencies.
Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, has also rejected the government's claim and instead demanded an United Nations-led probe into the incident.
Separately, the death toll in Thursday's suicide attack on a Shiite congregation increased to 12 on Friday as two more people succumbed to their injuries.
The suicide attacker used small arms fire and then blew himself up at a Shiite mosque in Kohati Bazaar district of Peshawar, provincial capital of North-West Frontier Province, when the police deployed outside tried to stop him. Twenty-five people were injured in the attack.
The attack came as Shiite Muslims mourn the martyrdom of Prophet Mohammed's grandson Hussain ibn Ali in 680 AD, which led to the emergence of the Shiite sect.
Pakistan has a history of violent sectarian clashes between the majority Sunni and minority Shiite Muslims who comprise 20 per cent of the population.