Six soldiers, 30 militants killed in Pakistan
Pakistani troops backed by helicopter gunships on Saturday killed 30 militants and captured key heights in a tribal area after facing tough resistance in which six soldiers were killed, officials said.world Updated: Apr 03, 2010 20:16 IST
Pakistani troops backed by helicopter gunships on Saturday killed 30 militants and captured key heights in a tribal area after facing tough resistance in which six soldiers were killed, officials said.
Fighting erupted at several places in Orakzai district near the Afghan border, where security forces have been pressing a new offensive to flush out Taliban believed to have fled a major offensive in South Waziristan last year.
"Security forces have taken control of important heights around Bezoti area after encountering tough resistance," a military statement said.
"During the operation 30 terrorists were killed and many got injured," it said.
"Six security personnel embraced martyrdom while 10 got injured," the statement said.
Earlier local administration and military officials said fighting erupted at several places and helicopter gunships pounded rebels positions in which a total of 22 militants were killed.
Major Fazlur Rehman, spokesman for the paramilitary Frontier Corps told AFP, that militants based in mountain hideouts attacked a military convoy between the towns of Goeen and Hindara and the gunbattle left at least 13 Taliban dead.
Local administration official Sajjad Ahmed, who also put the militant toll at 13 dead, said helicopter gunships pounded the rebels in the area. Six other militants wounded in the clash had been arrested, Ahmed told AFP.
Ground forces attacked militant hideouts in Otman Khel also and killed nine Taliban insurgents, Rehman said.
He later confirmed the overall toll had risen to 30 and that security forces had seized control of key heights in the area.
US officials have praised Pakistani assaults against homegrown militants blamed for attacks that have killed more than 3,000 people in three years, but also want the military to tackle groups who attack NATO troops across the border in Afghanistan.
Pakistan's mountainous and semi-autonomous tribal belt became a stronghold for hundreds of Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked extremists who fled Afghanistan to regroup and launch cross-border attacks after the US-led invasion in 2001.
The military has announced a running death toll of more than 100 militants in the Orakzai operation since late last month, but the figures cannot be verified independently because access to the remote area is extremely limited.
Orakzai is a former bastion of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan leader Hakimullah Mehsud, whom US officials believe probably died in a US drone attack in January. The Pakistani military says it has no evidence he is in the area.