Islamabad: Pakistani troops on Thursday stepped up efforts to capture a key stronghold of the Taliban and foreign fighters in the restive South Waziristan tribal region where 11 militants and a soldier were killed in fresh clashes, taking the toll to over 300 in nearly two weeks of fighting.
Security forces were closing in towards the militant stronghold of Kaniguram from two directions after unearthing a militant training centre and securing heights overlooking a strategic road, the military said in a statement.
Officials have described Kaniguram as an important base for Taliban and Uzbek fighters. Six militants were killed and four bunkers destroyed in fighting around Kaniguram.
Troops advancing towards another key militant base of Sararogha from Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud`s hometown of Kotkai encountered resistance while securing some heights.
Mortar fire by the militants killed a soldier and injured two more. Five militants were also killed in fighting in this region.
The military also said it had captured the important town of Inzar Kalay, which had been cleared of mines, IEDs and booby traps laid by the Taliban.
Troops moving along a third front from Razmak in North Waziristan too secured several important features on the route to the Taliban stronghold of Makeen.
Meanwhile, Maj Gen Khalid Rabbani, one of the Army officers overseeing operations in Waziristan, told visiting reporters that 82 militants and six soldiers had died in the recent operation to capture the key Taliban base at Sherwangi.
Forty three soldiers were also injured in the fighting.
Rabbani said a large number of Chechen, Uzbek and Turkmen militants were present in area around Sherwangi.
According to figures provided by the military, over 270 militants and more than 30 soldiers have died so far in fighting in South Waziristan, which started on October 2.
These figures cannot be independently verified as journalists have no access to the conflict zone.
The Army has mobilised two divisions or about 28,000 soldiers to take on an estimated 10,000 Taliban militants and foreign fighters in South Waziristan.
The Taliban have retaliated against the operation by unleashing a wave of bombings and suicide attacks across Pakistan.
Troops also continued search and clearance operations in the northwestern Swat valley, where four suspects were captured from different areas.