Pakistan troops kill 15 militants in northwest
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Pakistani troops and gunships killed 15 pro-Taliban militants and captured 60 others while clearing a restive northwestern town near the Afghan border, the military said Sunday.
Authorities launched the offensive in the increasingly troubled district of Hangu on Wednesday after Taliban insurgents occupying the area killed 17 paramilitary troops in an ambush.
Pakistan is under intense pressure from the United States and other Western allies to crack down on Taliban forces on its side of the porous border with Afghanistan.
“The operation is on and 15 militants have been killed so far, while 60 others have been captured,” chief military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told AFP.
“Five of our soldiers have been injured,” he said, adding that troops had managed to push militants out of the valley and were now targeting them in the mountains.
Authorities lifted a curfew early Sunday morning and afternoon as troops used artillery against militants in Tora Wari area, west of Hangu, residents said.
Security officials said that the army had already cleared the town of Zargari in Hangu and was sweeping through surrounding areas. Many militants had fled to the adjoining tribal district of Orakzai, which borders Afghanistan.
Troops moved into Hangu, an area previously known for violence between the Sunni and Shiite Muslim communities, after the Taliban surrounded a police station where several militants were being held last week.
Militants last week lured a convoy of paramilitary soldiers into a trap as they headed to a fort outside Hangu city, ambushing them with rocket-propelled grenades and killing 17 troops.
Meanwhile a top Pakistani official warned that White House hopeful Barack Obama’s threats of US military action against extremist sanctuaries in Pakistan were undermining Islamabad’s new government.
North West Frontier Province (NWFP) governor Owais Ghani told AFP in an interview that any incursion into Pakistan’s tribal belt bordering Afghanistan would spark “disastrous” consequences for the whole world.
Obama arrived in Afghanistan on Saturday where he met the US soldiers early Sunday at the US military’s Camp Eggers and was expected to meet with President Hamid Karazi.