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Deadly clashes erupt between government troops and militias

Pakistani troops killed nine Taliban militants in clashes in a tribal region bordering Afghanistan. Pakistan is locked in an ongoing conflict with militias and Al-Qaeda partisans that has threatened its overall stability.

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Pakistan troops Sunday killed nine Taliban militants in separate clashes in a troubled tribal region bordering Afghanistan, security officials said.

The clashes in Bajaur region came a day after the military announced it had recaptured an Al-Qaeda and Taliban stronghold in the area after two months of fighting which left 1,500 rebels and 73 soldiers dead.

In one incident, insurgents attacked a security post on the outskirts of Bajaur's main town of Khar. Troops retaliated, killing six Taliban.

Three more fighters were killed when troops attacked a suspected militant base in Charmang district, another security official said.

Requesting anonymity, he said two militant vehicles were also destroyed in shelling by military helicopters.

Major General Tariq Khan, head of the paramilitary Frontier Corps force, told reporters in Khar on Saturday that security forces backed by helicopter gunships had driven insurgents out of Loisam, a strategic town in Bajaur which is at a crossroads of extremist supply routes.

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

The extremists are accused of launching attacks on US and other foreign troops operating across the border in Afghanistan.

The army took journalists to Loisam and showed fortified trenches, a tunnel network, caves and houses allegedly used by the militants to fight pitched battles with Pakistani forces.

Security forces have captured more than 300 foreign militants, mainly from Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, in the operation, Khan said.

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

Khan said the operation in Bajaur "could go for several months before the area is completely cleared of militants."
 

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