PARACHINAR, Pakistan (AP) – Pakistani troops fought gunbattles and bombed militant hide-outs in a Taliban stronghold near the Afghan border Saturday, leaving six soldiers and 30 militants dead, officials said.
It was part of a recently launched operation in Orakzai tribal region aimed at flushing out foreign and Pakistani militants who last year fled an army onslaught further south.
Government official Sami Ullah said both ground forces and army helicopters took part in Saturday’s fighting that killed 30 insurgents. The troops captured six militants after the fighting, he added.
Two military officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the information to media, said six soldiers also died, and another 10 were wounded.
It was not immediately possible to get independent confirmation of the casualties and the identities of those killed in the remote and volatile region.
Ullah said Pakistani forces have killed about 250 militants in the region in the past three weeks and have cleared several militant strongholds.
Orakzai usually has a population of 450,000 and borders the tribal regions of Khyber and Kurram. But the violence there has forced tens of thousands of civilians to move to safer places in recent months.
At least 10,000 people left Orakzai and moved to a camp in the nearby Kohat region since the latest offensive began there in the second week of March.
Washington has praised Islamabad for targeting militant strongholds in various tribal regions.
The CIA has also launched scores of missile attacks near the Afghan border, killing Taliban, Al Qaeda men and local insurgents.
Pakistani Taliban have responded with suicide and bomb attacks on police and civilians in major cities.