Pakistan troops kill 24 militants

October 13, 2008 12:00 am

, KHAR, October 13 – Pakistani troops backed by helicopter gunships and artillery killed at least 24 militants with links to Al-Qaeda in a tribal region near the Afghan border, officials said on Monday.

The clashes occurred on Sunday in the Bajaur region, where Pakistani security forces launched a major offensive against Islamic militants in August.

"Helicopter gunships and artillery pounded hideouts of militants on Sunday, killing at least 24 rebels and wounding 10 others," a security official told AFP.

He said that the shelling which began Sunday afternoon continued into the early hours of Monday.

"At least four militants and two locals were also killed in an exchange of fire between a tribal lashkar (army) and rebels on Sunday in Bajaur," the official said.

The tribal army was formed last week to take action against militants hiding in the area, whom local tribesmen say are undermining their power structure.

There was no way to independently verify the toll.

The Pakistani military says more than 1,000 rebel fighters have been killed since it launched its offensive in Bajaur, including Al-Qaeda’s operational commander in the region, Egyptian Abu Saeed Al-Masri.

Pakistan’s tribal regions have been wracked by violence since thousands of Taliban and Al-Qaeda rebels fled to the country after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001.

Violence linked to Pakistan’s role in the "war on terror" has claimed the lives of more than 1,300 people in suicide and bomb attacks in the past year.


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