Pak troops kill 22 militants near Afghan border
Pakistani security forces killed at least 22 militants in combat over the weekend in the restive Kurram tribal region bordering Afghanistan, media reports said on Sunday.
Islamabad: Pakistani security forces killed at least 22 militants in combat over the weekend in the restive Kurram tribal region bordering Afghanistan, media reports said on Sunday.
It is believed that hundreds of Taliban fighters have fled to Kurram and other nearby districts to escape the army offensive in the South Waziristan tribal badlands, that are said to contain countless al Qaeda sanctuaries.
Troops backed by attack helicopters pushed into the Lower Kurram region on Saturday, killing up to 15 insurgents, including a local commander identified as Walidad, Geo News television channel said.
The clashes continued through the night and seven more rebels were killed on Sunday morning, the report said. Five soldiers also died during the two days of combat.
Geo said Taliban fighters were putting up a strong resistance to the military, which had destroyed several rebel hideouts.
Fighting in Kurram came as Pakistan`s Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani announced that the militants fleeing the "highly successful" operation in South Waziristan would be chased.
The Army offensive in South Waziristan began in mid-October after weeks of aerial raids. Troops have taken control of most of the militant towns and main land routes in the rugged territory, the military said.
Gilani said on Saturday that the operation was over, but he backtracked within hours, stating that his remarks were "in a different context".
"I cannot give a time frame when we will conclude (the) military operation in South Waziristan, but I can at least provide this information that success rate is very high in this area," Gilani was quoted as saying by the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan.
Nearly 600 militants and up to 79 soldiers have been killed in the onslaught since October 17, the military says, but the death toll cannot be verified independently.
The US government is pressurising Islamabad to expand its fight against Taliban insurgency to other lawless tribal regions used by militants to attack Western forces deployed in Afghanistan.