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'10 militants killed in northwest Pak'

world Updated: Sep 08, 2008 11:50 IST

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At least 10 militants were killed after clashes with troops who pounded their suspected hideouts in restive northwestern Pakistan, the military said on Monday.

Clashes between soldiers and militants erupted in Kabal district of Swat valley late on Sunday and continued until dawn, a military spokesman said.

The exchange of fire was heavy, he said, adding that troops used artillery and mortar shells to target suspected hideouts of fighters loyal to radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah.

"We have confirmation that at least 10 militants were killed," spokesman Colonel Nadeem Anwar said, adding that the final toll may be higher. There were no military casualties, Anwar said.

The clashes erupted after militants hurled a grenade into a gathering of troops on a golf course in Kabal, wounding two soldiers.

Pro-Taliban cleric Fazlullah launched a violent campaign to enforce harsh Islamic Sharia law in the region last year. Since then, the former popular tourist destination of Swat has been rocked by fierce clashes.

Pakistan's army has intensified its campaign in the scenic valley in recent weeks against Fazlullah's fighters, killing hundreds of them.

Former president Pervez Musharraf had been a key ally of the United States in its efforts to combat militancy, particularly in the tribal area near Afghanistan, which Washington says is being used as a launch pad for rebel attacks on US-led forces across the border.

But Pakistan's fragile coalition government has been struggling to tackle the violence that has seen nearly 1,200 people killed in bombings and suicide attacks across the country in the past year.