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'18 militants killed in Pakistan clashes'

world Updated: Sep 12, 2008 01:17 IST

AFP
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Pakistani troops backed by tanks and fighter jets on Thursday killed at least 18 rebels in a restive tribal area near the Afghan border, officials said.

Pakistani forces have for weeks been targeting militant positions in Bajaur tribal region in a major operation that has seen more than 600 -- mostly militants -- killed and more than 260,000 people displaced.

"Troops used tanks, helicopter gunships, fighter jets and heavy artillery to target militant hideouts in Loisam and Rashakai areas killing 18 rebels," a security official told AFP.

He said they destroyed an office of the outlawed terrorist outfit Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), but the shelling also razed more than 25 shops in a nearby commercial market.

On Wednesday, Pakistani troops killed 22 militants in Bajaur.

Separately, Taliban militants shot dead three pro-government tribesmen in a restive Pakistani tribal area, accusing the victims of spying against them.

The bodies of the tribesmen, aged 30-40 years old, were found on Thursday morning near a road in the Tally area of Bajaur tribal region which borders Afghanistan, a local government official told AFP.

"They were shot in the neck and a note found with their bodies said all those indulging in activities against Taliban and cooperating with the government will suffer the same fate," the official said.

Militants have killed several tribesmen, accusing them of spying on their activities on behalf of the Pakistani government and US forces operating across the border in Afghanistan.

Tribal regions have been wracked by violence since hundreds of Taliban and Al-Qaeda rebels fled there after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001.

US and Afghan officials have repeatedly claimed the rugged tribal region is used by militants to launch cross-border attacks on international coalition troops deployed in Afghanistan.

Violence linked to Pakistan's role in the "war on terror" has claimed the lives of more than 1,200 people in suicide and bomb attacks across the country in the past year.

Pakistan last month officially banned the TTP, said to be behind a wave of suicide attacks.