Pakistani helicopters and jets killed 17 suspected insurgents, an official said on Friday, as violence raged in Taliban strongholds near the Afghan border.
Ten other militants were wounded in the airstrikes on rebel hide-outs in the Bajur region late on Thursday, said Jamil Khan, the No 2 government representative in the semi-autonomous area. Pakistan has received US praise for offensives against militants suspected of involvement in violence in neighboring Afghanistan. The army claims to have killed 1,500 insurgents in Bajur in the past three months.
Khan gave no indication of any government casualties in the latest clashes. Insecurity and government restrictions make it impossible to verify accounts of the fighting.
However, insurgents are putting up stiff resistance and hitting back with suicide attacks, further dismaying a population simmering with anti-US sentiment and raising doubts about nuclear-armed Pakistan's political and economic stability.
Two suicide attacks targeting pro-government tribesmen and security forces killed at least 19 people and wounded dozens in the northwest on Thursday.
One of them struck in Bajur, killing 17 pro-government Salarzai tribesmen who had formed a militia to combat insurgents. Forty other people were hurt, officials said.
In the nearby Swat Valley, a suicide car bomber rammed his vehicle into a checkpoint manned by security forces near a police compound, killing at least two paramilitary troops and wounding at least 20 other people, officials said.
Pakistan launched an offensive in Bajur three months ago to dismantle what it said was a virtual Taliban mini-state from where militants were flowing into Afghanistan.
The Salarzai tribesmen were preparing to stage an assault on local militant hide-outs when the blast occurred, said Iqbal Khattak, a government official.
A man who said he was a spokesman for a Taliban-linked group, Caravan-e-Naimatullah, claimed it was behind the bombing. Little is known about the group but earlier this year it briefly took over a handful of schools in the region.
A suicide attack in October against another pro-government militia in the nearby Orakzai tribal region left dozens dead.