Pakistani forces kill at least 11 militants

Other News Materials 28 June 2009 10:37 (UTC +04:00)

Warplanes and helicopter gunships pounded suspected militant positions in Pakistan's troubled northwest on Sunday, killing 11 Taliban fighters, intelligence officials said, Associated Press reported.

Elsewhere in the region, two government soldiers were killed and four were wounded when insurgents attacked a pair of military outposts near Wana in South Waziristan shortly after morning prayers with rockets, missiles and small arms fire, two intelligence officials said.

The military confirmed that two bases had been attacked, but could not immediately comment on casualties.

Violence has spiked in recent weeks in South Waziristan, a rugged tribal area along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, as the government prepares for an apparent offensive there aimed at eliminating Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud.

The military kept up its campaign in the region on Sunday. Jet fighters struck the village of Kani Guram overnight, leaving eight militants dead, while helicopter gunships hit positions in Shah Alam and Raghhzai, killing three more fighters, the intelligence officials told The Associated Press.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the information.

It was not possible to independently confirm the casualty counts and identities of those reported killed. Journalists have little access to the remote, dangerous region.

The government has turned its attention to South Waziristan as it wraps up a two-month-old campaign to oust Mehsud-allied Taliban militants from the Swat Valley region, also in the northwest, where some 2 million residents have been displaced by the fighting.

Mehsud has retaliated to the government operations against the Taliban with a string of suicide attacks across the country that have killed more than 100 people in the past month.

The government's campaign against the Taliban is seen as a test of its determination to confront an insurgency that has grown in recent years after earlier military operations failed to finish the job and peace deals with the Taliban collapsed.

Washington strongly supports the campaign, hoping it will eventually bring greater stability to Pakistan and help shut down al-Qaida and Taliban networks that use the border region as a springboard for attacks on U.S. and other forces in Afghanistan.