Militants, troops clash in Pakistan; 46 killed

Dozens of terrorists attack security convoy sparking gun battle on Afgan border.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
June 9, 2010 11:55
1 minute read.
A Pakistani fireman tries to extinguish fire after

Pakistan 311. (photo credit: AP Photo/B.K.Bangash)

 
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PARACHINAR, Pakistan — Dozens of militants attacked a security convoy in an area near Afghanistan where Pakistan declared the Taliban defeated, sparking a battle that killed six soldiers and 40 militants, an official said Wednesday.

The clash in Orakzai tribal region illustrated the challenge facing Pakistan as it responds to US pressure and tries to oust Islamist insurgents hiding along the Afghan border. Its declarations of success in some parts have often been premature.

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Fifteen soldiers also were wounded in the late Tuesday fighting, government administration Samiullah Khan said.

The army's offensive in Orakzai came on the heels of an operation against the Pakistani Taliban in the South Waziristan tribal area. Many militants in South Waziristan were believed to have fled to Orakzai, though the top Pakistani Taliban leaders are believed to be in North Waziristan, an area the Pakistani army has resisted attacking.

For months, the military pounded Orakzai with airstrikes, eventually staging a ground operation as well. The offensive intensified in March, with the reported daily death tolls of suspected militants sometimes in the dozens.

Information from the region has been nearly impossible to verify independently because Orakzai is remote, dangerous and access to it is severely restricted.

The army said June 1 that Orakzai had been cleared of militants and that fleeing civilians could expect to return home soon. More than 200,000 people are believed to have poured out of the area since the end of last year.

The US has praised Pakistan for pursuing army operations against militant groups on its territory. In part, that's because it does not want Pakistan to be a sanctuary for militants battling US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Also Wednesday, government official Maqsood Khan said militants attacked two security checkpoints in Mohmand, another part of the tribal belt that has endured army operations. The overnight attack sparked gunbattles that killed two soldiers and six insurgents and wounded several from both sides.

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