Pakistani troops kill 50 militants near Afghan border

Other News Materials 27 August 2008 20:58 (UTC +04:00)

Pakistani security forces on Wednesday claimed they had killed some 50 insurgents Wednesday in clashes near the Afghan border, while at least seven civilians died when an explosion ripped through an eatery near the capital Islamabad, dpa reported.  

"Artillery fire and helicopter gunships engaged a militants' hideout in Raghan area of Bajaur district. Thirty miscreants, including important local Taliban commanders and some foreign fighters were killed in the action," Army spokesman Major Murad Khan said.

He claimed seven more militants died in a separate overnight strike in Nowagai area of the district.

But the numbers were contradicted by the local security officials. "Altogether seven to eight people died in both strikes," said an official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Bajaur, which is close to the Afghan border, is a known safe haven for al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

Bajaur has seen deadly clashes since the military launched attacks on insurgents there last month. According to the government, more than 500 militants have been killed so far, but the claim could not be independently confirmed.

Dozens of soldiers have also died in the fighting.

The ongoing battles caused an exodus of more than 250,000 people to makeshift camps set up by the government and relief agencies in the adjoining North-West Frontier Province.

In South Waziristan, 13 militants died when the security forces repelled an overnight attack on Tiarza Fort and Tiarza Bridge Check Post in the tribal district, Major Murad said.

Between 15 and 20 more insurgents were injured in the exchange of fire that continued Wednesday.

Separately, at least seven people were killed and about 20 were wounded when an explosion ripped through a hotel near Islamabad.

The blast late Tuesday severely damaged the roadside hotel in the Sihala area.

"The preliminary investigations indicate that 3 to 4 kilograms of explosives was used in the bomb," said Ahmad Latif, a senior police officer.

He said all the victims were civilians.

Pakistan is facing a resurgence of violence from militants who have their bases in the country's tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

Last week, two suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of a military-run weapons' factory, killing about 80 people and wounding 100 more. Most of the victims were civilians.