Four militants killed as head of US Central Command visits Pakistan

Other News Materials 3 November 2008 14:37 (UTC +04:00)

Four Islamic militants were killed by Pakistani troops Monday as the new commander of US forces in the Middle East and Central Asia, General David Petraeus, held talks with the Pakistani leadership, officials said.

Gunmen in North-West Frontier Province also abducted an Afghan national believed to be a United Nations employee, reported dpa.

The militants were killed when security forces started pounding insurgent positions Sunday night in the Mamoond and Chahrmang areas of the Bajaur tribal district bordering Afghanistan with artillery fire and the operation continued until Monday morning.

"According to information gathered from local sources, at least four Taliban militants were killed and numerous injured," a security official said.

The military offensive in Bajaur was launched in early August to clear the hideouts of Taliban and al-Qaeda militants conducting cross-border attacks on international forces in Afghanistan.

It is part of Pakistan's policy adopted recently to battle the Islamic insurgency in the country's ungoverned tribal belt, mainly on pressure from United States.

The fresh action came as Petraeus, the US Central Command's new chief and the former commander of coalition forces in Iraq, discussed security issues and the situation along the Afghan border with Pakistani Defence Minister Ahmad Mukhtar in Islamabad and army chief General Ishfaq Pervez Kayani in the adjoining garrison city of Rawalpindi.

He was expected to hold talks later in the day with President Asif Ali Zardari.

Petraeus, who was accompanied by Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher in his first international trip as head of the US Central Command, visited Pakistan at a time that relations between it and the United States in the fight against terrorism are strained because of intensified US airstrikes on suspected militant hideouts in tribal areas.

Pakistan last week summoned US Ambassador Anne Patterson to lodge a protest against the recent attacks by US drone aircraft.

Meanwhile, gunmen seized an Afghan national, Akhtar Kohistani, Sunday in the North-West Frontier Province's Darosh district, 80 kilometres south of Chitral, the region's main town.

Local police officials said the captive was associated with the United Nations Development Programme in Afghanistan.

Darosh police chief Sher Akbar said a group of armed men seized Kohistani at his father-in-law's house.

There was no official confirmation from UN officials in Afghanistan or Pakistan.