50 insurgents killed in Pakistan tribal belt fighting

Troops backed by jet fighters and artillery have killed about 50 insurgents in a volatile northwestern tribal region near Afghanistan where Pakistan Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud is believed to be entrenched with thousands of his fighters, Pakistani officials said Saturday. They were the first known militant casualties in South Waziristan, where Osama bin Laden and other top al-Qaida and Taliban leaders are believed to be hiding, since the military started pounding the area with artillery about a week ago. Although the army has not announced a formal beginning of full-scale operations in South Waziristan, officials say they already are occupying strategic positions in the region.