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Pakistan kills seven militants near Afghan border: military

Pakistani troops backed by helicopter gunships pounded suspected militant hideouts in a tribal town on the Afghan border, killing seven rebels, the military said on Tuesday.

world Updated: Feb 10, 2009 12:16 IST

Pakistani troops backed by helicopter gunships pounded suspected militant hideouts in a tribal town on the Afghan border, killing seven rebels, the military said on Tuesday.

The operation was launched on Monday in Inayat Killi town in the Bajaur region, a stronghold of Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants, after a rebel rocket attack, local military official Mustaqim Shah told AFP.

The rocket attack gutted a shop but caused no casualties, he said.

"Troops backed by helicopters retaliated with artillery and mortar fire, and destroyed several suspected locations on Tuesday. At least seven militants were killed," the official said.

Taliban spokesman Maulvi Omar, in telephone calls to journalists on Monday, said that militants killed five security officials in a multi-pronged attack on Inayat Killi. One tank was also destroyed in the attack, he said.

Security officials denied the claims.

Residents and security officials said exchanges of fire continued overnight and into early on Tuesday, but there were no further reports of casualties.

Pakistani forces launched a massive, two-month operation in Bajaur last August. Military officials said the offensive left more than 1,500 Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants dead and that more than 70 troops were also killed.

Security forces had also captured more than 300 foreign militants, mainly from Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, the military said.

The operation was launched in the troubled region bordering Afghanistan after hundreds of militants captured the strategic town of Loisam in August.

Islamabad hailed the Bajaur operation as proof that it is responding to US and Afghan demands to take action against extremists in Pakistan's seven semi-autonomous tribal areas.

Pakistan's tribal belt became a safe haven for hundreds of Al-Qaeda and Taliban extremists after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan toppled the hardline Taliban regime in late 2001.