PESHAWAR, Pakistan, (Reuters) – Pakistani security forces, backed by artillery and tanks, have killed 14 Taliban insurgents in heavy fighting in the Mohmand region on the Afghan border, a government official said on Sunday.
Pakistan is struggling to stem Islamist militant influence and violence in the northwest as it keeps a wary eye on its eastern border with India after militant attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai led to a spike in tension between the neighbours.
The latest fighting in the northwest broke out Saturday evening when militants attacked troops conducting searches. “They launched the attack from a hideout. Our troops responded quickly and destroyed it and killed 14 miscreants,” Miraj Khan, a government official in the region, told Reuters.
Two paramilitary soldiers were killed in the clash that went on for several hours, he said.
Pakistani security have recently stepped up their operations in Mohmand, which is to the north of the city of Peshawar, to fight al Qaeda and Taliban militants fleeing a military offensive in the neighbouring Bajaur region, to the north.
Last week, more than 600 militants, many from Afghanistan, attacked a military camp and two nearby checkposts in the region and six soldiers and 40 militants were killed, the military said.
The United States and Afghanistan have for years urged Pakistan to eliminate militant bases in lawless ethnic Pashtun tribal regions on the border from where Taliban infiltrate into Afghanistan to fight U.S.-led forces.
Intensified Pakistani efforts against the militants has led to what some officials call reverse infiltration, with some Taliban coming back into Pakistan to protect their rear bases from the Pakistani military.