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'Pak kills 22 militants near Afghan border'

world Updated: Jan 20, 2009 15:15 IST

Pakistani troops backed by war planes and helicopter gunships on Tuesday killed 22 militants in a major offensive against insurgents near the Afghan border, security officials said.

"We have launched a major operation in Mohmand district early this morning," a paramilitary force official told AFP.

"At least 22 insurgents have died. Aircraft participated in the operation in Mohmand for the first time," he said, requesting anonymity.

Troops pounded suspected militant locations in the northwestern tribal region and destroyed several bases, he added.

Residents who confirmed the military offensive said helicopters also targeted insurgent camps and predicted that "casualties may go up."

Pakistan's lawless tribal areas have been wracked by violence since hundreds of Taliban and Al-Qaeda rebels sought refuge in the region after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan toppled the hardline Taliban regime in late 2001.