x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Pakistani security forces kill 30 militants

Three soldiers, including two army officers, are also killed in the latest fighting in the tribal region on the Afghan border.

ISLAMABAD // Pakistani security forces killed 30 militants loyal to al-Qa'eda and Taliban in the latest fighting in a strategically important tribal region on the Afghan border, officials said today. Three soldiers, including two army officers, were also killed in the fighting, which began yesterday, in Bajaur region described by the military officials as a "centre of gravity" for the militants.

The security forces backed by helicopter gunships pounded positions of the militants in and around militant strongholds in Loi Sam and Rashakai areas. The military spokesman Major Murad Khan said 25 militants were killed in fighting yesterday. A military official said five more insurgents were killed today. "The security forces have cleared the areas around west and north of Rashkai and Loi Sam areas," Mr Khan said.

"The security forces are successfully making advances today," he added. Pakistani security forces launched the offensive in Bajaur in August and a senior military official yesterday estimated 65 per cent of the militant problem would be eliminated if guerrillas were defeated in Bajaur. Maj - Gen Tariq Khan, head of the paramilitary Frontier Corps force, said up to 1,000 militants, including their five senior commanders, and 62 soldiers had been killed in the fighting in the region.

Bajaur is the smallest of Pakistan's seven so-called tribal agencies, semi-autonomous ethnic Pashtun regions along the Afghan border, with a population of just one million people. But it provides access to surrounding Pakistani regions as well as the eastern Afghan province of Kunar. Pakistani intelligence officers have said al Qa'eda's second-in-command Ayman al Zawahri was believed to have visited Bajaur in recent years.