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55 militants killed in Pakistan

world Updated: Sep 05, 2009 18:34 IST

Pakistani security forces on Saturday killed at least 55 militants in two districts of the country's troubled northwestern tribal region bordering Afghanistan, officials said.

Paramilitary Frontier Corps troops aided by helicopter gunships destroyed the headquarters of the pro-Taliban fighters in Khyber tribal district and destroyed seven vehicles, a statement said.

The operation in Gogrina and Sanpal areas of Tirrah valley in the district killed at least 35 militants and injured several, the Frontier Corps said.

The government launched an offensive earlier this week against Lashkar-e-Islam (Army of Islam), a guerrilla group active in the area and allegedly involved in numerous killings and kidnappings.

Rebel activity had increased with frequent attacks on the security forces and disruption of vital NATO supplies to the allied troops in Afghanistan, which pass through the area.

A suicide attack Aug 28 killed 22 tribal policemen as they were preparing to break the fast at the sunset.

The military Thursday also destroyed an abandoned house of Lashkar-e-Islam leader Mangal Bagh, a hardline cleric and known facilitator of Taliban, who in the past had authorized a campaign of ruthless killings of his opponents.

Authorities vowed to continue the offensive until security was fully restored in the lawless district. But similar commitments were made during military operations against local militants in the area last year, which failed to bring normalcy.

Separately, helicopter gunships and jets pounded rebel hideouts in the neighbouring Orakzai tribal district.

"The aerial attack killed as many as 20 terrorists and destroyed their three hideouts," said a local intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Orakzai district is the stronghold of the new leader of Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, who replaced Baitullah Mehsud after his death in US drone strike last month.