Pakistan's military today killed 30 Taliban fighters in a battle in the north-west tribal belt, officials said, as the army boasted of fresh gains against the Islamist insurgents. More than 100 armed Taliban militants stormed a check post of the paramilitary Frontier Corps in the district of Mohmand, which borders Afghanistan, local administration official Maqsood Ahmed said. The predawn assault in the town of Chamarkand left one soldier dead and four wounded, he said.
"Troops equipped with mortars and long range cannons retaliated killing 30 militants," he said, adding that they had already recovered 10 bodies. A military statement confirmed the clash and the casualty figures, although such death tolls are difficult to confirm independently as the area is rife with militant violence and out of bounds to most reporters and aid workers. Chamarkand town is about two kilometres from the eastern Afghan province of Kunar, which is troubled by a growing Taliban insurgency.
Mohmand tribal district neighbours Bajaur, where the Pakistani military on Tuesday claimed to have captured a vast Taliban and al Qa'eda hideout dug into mountains near the Afghan border in an offensive that killed 75 militants. Pakistan's paramilitary forces said yesterday troops had also killed 38 militants during a week-long operation against the Taliban under the code name "Spring Cleaning" in the north-west Taliban stronghold of Pastawana.
Under US pressure, Pakistan has in the last year significantly increased operations against militants in its north-west and tribal belt, which Washington has branded an al Qa'eda "headquarters" and the most dangerous region on Earth. The rugged tribal terrain became a stronghold for hundreds of extremists who fled neighbouring Afghanistan after the US-led invasion toppled the hardline Taliban regime in late 2001.
Washington says the militants use the semiautonomous tribal belt to plot and stage attacks on Nato and US troops fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. * AFP