Attack on Pakistan military triggers heavy clashes

AP News
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Posted: Jun 19, 2011 9:28 AM
Attack on Pakistan military triggers heavy clashes

At least 50 militants attacked a paramilitary checkpoint in northwest Pakistan near the Afghan border Sunday, triggering intense fighting that killed four soldiers and up to 25 insurgents, officials said.

The military responded to the attack in the Walidad area of the Mohmand tribal region by carrying out airstrikes against militant bunkers on a mountaintop stronghold and sending in ground forces to push back the insurgents.

Four soldiers were killed in the fighting and eight were wounded, the military said in a statement.

There were conflicting reports on the number of militants killed. The military said 25 insurgents died, but Abdul Hameed Khan, a local government official, put the number at eight. Khan said the number of militants involved in the attack was between 50 and 60.

It was not immediately possible to reconcile the conflicting death tolls.

The military said it successfully gained control of the militant's mountaintop stronghold and forced the insurgents to flee across the border into Afghanistan.

Khan said it was unclear whether the militants who attacked the paramilitary checkpoint came from Afghanistan or whether they were based locally.

Mohmand is located across the border from Afghanistan's Kunar province, large swaths of which are controlled by the Taliban. Large groups of militants have used Kunar as a launching pad for attacks inside Pakistan in recent weeks, prompting complaints from Islamabad that foreign forces in Afghanistan are not doing enough to secure the border.

Mohmand is one of several tribal areas where the Pakistani military has pursued offensives against a homegrown Taliban insurgency that has declared war against the state.