Pakistani troops kill 15 Taliban in Bajaur clashes
Pakistani forces backed by helicopter gunships have killed 15 Taliban in clashes that erupted after militants attacked a military post and convoy in the northwest of the country, an official said on Monday.world Updated: Feb 01, 2010 13:29 IST
Pakistani forces backed by helicopter gunships have killed 15 Taliban in clashes that erupted after militants attacked a military post and convoy in the northwest of the country, an official said on Monday.
Security forces have in recent days intensified operations against al Qaeda-linked militants in Bajaur, an ethnic Pashtun tribal region on the Afghan border, as part of its efforts to defeat Pakistani Taliban militants fighting the state.
The latest fighting broke out on Sunday afternoon in the militant stronghold of Wara Mamoon and lasted until midnight, local government official Bajaur Abdul Malik told Reuters.
"The Taliban first attacked our checkpoint and convoy and then we responded with ground and air attacks," he said.
Malik said 15 militants and one soldier were killed and 10 militants were wounded.
Pakistan's Taliban denied a report on Sunday that their leader Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a U.S. drone aircraft strike.
Pakistan's military said earlier it was investigating reports that Hakimullah died from wounds sustained in a drone attack on Jan. 17 and had been buried in the Orakzai tribal region in the northwest of the country.
The army mounted a major offensive in Bajaur in 2008 and declared the region largely cleared of militants after months of clashes.
On Saturday, a suicide car-bomber killed 14 people in an attack near a security checkpost in Bajaur's main town of Khar.
Bajaur is opposite the eastern Afghan province of Kunar and has long been an infiltration route for militants entering Afghanistan to fight U.S.-led forces there.
The United States sees the elimination of militant enclaves in northwest Pakistan, from where the Taliban orchestrate their insurgency in Afghanistan and al Qaeda plots violence further afield, as vital for bringing stability to Afghanistan.
The United States has stepped up drone strikes on sanctuaries for al Qaeda and Taliban militants on the Pakistani side of the border since a suicide bomber killed seven CIA employees in eastern Afghanistan's Khost province on Dec. 30.
Pakistan objects to the drone strikes and says it violates its sovereignty and complicates its efforts against militancy by inflaming public anger.