Pakistan says security forces kill 40 militants in northwest

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 30, 2011 8:23 AM
Pakistan says security forces kill 40 militants in northwest

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistani security forces have killed at least 40 militants in a tribal area near the Afghan border over the last three days, a spokesman for a paramilitary force said on Thursday.

Pakistan's military and security forces have been on the defensive since U.S. special forces killed Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani town on May 2.

The Pakistani Taliban movement, a close al Qaeda ally, launched numerous attacks to avenge his death, including the siege of a naval base in Pakistan's biggest city Karachi, suicide bombings and shootings using large numbers of fighters.

The Taliban have also adopted new tactics such as using a militant husband-and-wife team in a suicide bombing.

Major Fazal-ur-Rehman, a spokesman for the paramilitary Frontier Corps, said an operation against militants was launched on Monday in three villages in Mohmand region.

"They were attacking our soldiers from there but now we have cleared these villages (of militants)," he said. At least 40 militants and one soldier were killed in fighting.

There was no independent verification of the deaths. Militants often dispute official casualty tolls.

Rehman said the militants had fled to those villages to escape security crackdowns in other areas.

Mohmand is one of seven ethnic Pashtun tribal areas where al Qaeda, the Taliban and other militant groups operate, plotting attacks on the Pakistani state as well as U.S.-led NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Islamabad has been under intense pressure to prove it is a reliable partner in the U.S. war on militancy. The discovery that bin Laden had been living in Pakistan raised suspicions intelligence services may have been sheltering him.

Pakistan has denied any collusion with bin Laden.

Pakistan's cooperation is more important than ever as the United States seeks to wind down its war in Afghanistan and defeat al Qaeda and its allies.

But Pakistan's generals are furious because they were kept in the dark about the raid that killed bin Laden.

(Reporting Shams Mohmand; Writing by Kamran Haider; Editing by Sugita Katyal)