Dozens killed as Pakistani army, militants clash

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 31, 2012 7:08 AM
Dozens killed as Pakistani army, militants clash

KURRAM, Pakistan (Reuters) - Dozens of people were killed in clashes between Pakistani soldiers and militants in the northwest region on Tuesday, security officials said, casting further doubts on exploratory peace talks with the rebels.

Fighting erupted when militants attacked a security post in the Jogi area of Kurram tribal region, near the Afghanistan border, said the officials.

At least 10 soldiers were killed and 32 others wounded, while 40 militants died and 30 were injured after Pakistani forces retaliated and gunship helicopters were called in for support, the officials said.

The death toll could not be independently verified and militants often dispute official accounts.

The Pakistani Taliban, allied with al Qaeda, and the Afghan Taliban movement fighting Western forces in Afghanistan, are entrenched in Pakistan's northwestern tribal areas.

A series of military offensives have failed to break the group.

Exploratory peace talks between Pakistan and al Qaeda-linked Taliban have made little progress so far, and previous peace deals have failed to improve security.

Pakistan's army and air force have been conducting operations against militants in Kurram since the beginning of the year. Fighting has been particularly intense in Jogi.

At least four soldiers and 30 militants were killed during clashes last week.

(Reporting by Ali Afzaal in KURRAM, Saud Mehsud in DERA ISMAIL KHAN and Jibran Ahmad in PESHAWAR; Writing by Serena Chaudhry; Editing by Qasim Nauman and Sanjeev Miglani)