Soldiers, Islamists killed in clash in Pakistan
Pakistan says five soldiers and at least 21 Taliban fighters have been killed in a battle in the country's tribal belt. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s government looks to satisfy US demands to crack down on militants at home and in Afghanistan.
The clash in Orakzai district, one of Pakistan’s seven tribal regions in the country’s northwest shadowing the border with Afghanistan, was the deadliest such incident for Pakistani troops in months, Pakistan military said on Friday.
The US considers the region an Al-Qaeda stronghold.
Over the last months, Pakistan’s paramilitary and army have been expanding their fight in Orakzai district. The region is believed to be a refuge for Taliban fighters who escaped a major Pakistan army assault in South Waziristan last year.
“Last night at Kalaya in Orakzai agency terrorists attacked and captured a check post. Security forces counter-attacked and recaptured that check post”, a Pakistan military statement said on Friday.
21 militants and five security personnel, including a lieutenant colonel, were killed before the post was recaptured, said the statement. Other sources said 24 Islamist militants were killed in the clash.
Pakistan’s mountainous and semi-autonomous tribal belt became a stronghold for hundreds of Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked extremists after the US-led invasion on Afghanistan in late 2001.
Pakistan’s move to launch assaults against home-grown militants has been praised by the US, who also wants Pakistan to clamp down on groups who attack Nato troops in Afghanistan.
In a meeting on Wednesday, Pakistan and the US had held a first "strategic dialogue" in Washington, which was aimed at forging a closer relationship between the two countries.
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