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18 militants, two soldiers killed in Pakistan


Peshawar : At least two soldiers and 18 Taliban militants were killed Sunday in various clashes, but also in an accidental blast, across three districts of Pakistan’s restive northwest, security officials said.

Around a dozen Taliban rebels attacked a military checkpoint in the tribal district of South Waziristan with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, killing one soldier and injuring two more.

An intelligence official said the troops repulsed the attack “successfully” and killed one of the “terrorists” and wounded four more. “Some other attackers managed to flee,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Thousands of Pakistani troops moved into the Taliban’s stronghold of South Waziristan in mid-October. Months of fighting left more than 600 rebels and 27 soldiers dead.

Hundreds more militants are believed to have fled to the neighbouring tribal district of Orakzai, where government forces have launched a separate operation to take control of the lawless region.

A senior official with the paramilitary Frontier Corps force, which is spearheading the assault on Islamist insurgents in the northwest, said that helicopter gunships targeted four dens of militants in Orakzai Sunday.

“All the engaged targets were destroyed and our local informants told us that at least 13 militants died and around a dozen were wounded,” said the official, who requested not to be named.

Separately, four militants, including a commander, died Sunday when ordnance exploded accidentally in a Taliban ammunition depot in the district. Five more were injured in the blast.

Meanwhile, a group of insurgents raided a paramilitary training camp, killing one recruit and injuring three more.

The attack took place in Lower Dir, one of the eight districts in Malakand region where Pakistani troops fought a severe battle against the Taliban last year before expelling them from the region.

“The FC trainees were staying in tents in a local college. The attackers arrived there and opened fire with rifles,” said local police officer Naik Mohammad.

Pakistan has deployed around 150,000 troops to quell the rising Islamist insurgency in northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and the adjoining tribal region.