Official: Pakistani forces kill 50 militants in fresh clashes

Other News Materials 11 August 2008 22:42 (UTC +04:00)

Up to 50 pro-Taliban militants were killed and dozens more injured on Monday in fresh clashes in the restive tribal region bordering Afghanistan, taking the death toll of rebels in five-day fighting to 150, officials said, dpa reported.

"Helicopter gunships pounded militant positions as they tried to attack a base of paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) in Bajaur tribal district," army spokesman Major Murad Khan told Deutsche Presse- Agentur dpa.

Battles between government forces and Taliban fighters broke out in Bajaur late last week when the rebels surrounded an FC base in the Loi Sam area.

After taking over the base, Taliban surrounded the district headquarter Khar from four sides and took control of the roads that links the town with other parts of the country.

"Thirteen of our troops have been martyred in the firefight so far and 15 are injured," Khan said.

However, Taliban spokesman Maulvi Omar told dpa that they had given safe passage to at least 100 FC troops in the Loi Sam area on the request of local tribal elders.

At least six civilians, including women and children, were also killed in the bombardment around Khar on Monday and 15 houses destroyed in fresh shelling, local residents said, a claim which was denied by army spokesman.

Clashes between Pakistan's security forces and Taliban have forced thousands of people to migrate to other areas of neighbouring North- West Frontier Province (NWFP).

Pakistan's tribal districts have been sanctuaries for al-Qaeda terrorist network and Taliban elements, who launch cross border attacks into Afghanistan against US-led international forces.

Islamabad is facing growing international pressure to clamp down on the incursions which, according to some estimates, have increased by around 40 per cent since March since Pakistan's new government launched peace talks with the militants.

Despite the nascent peace process, the insurgents continue to launch occasional attacks on the security forces, prompting the government to recently launch limited operations against them.