21 Taliban militants killed in Pakistan (Second Lead)March 24th, 2010 - 8:36 pm ICT by IANS
Islamabad, March 24 (DPA) Twenty-one Islamist insurgents were killed Wednesday in clashes with security forces and airstrikes targeting their hideouts in Pakistan’s tribal region near the Afghan border, an official said.
The clashes in the Orakzai tribal district came as military and paramilitary troops, backed by tanks and artillery, are carrying out an offensive to destroy Taliban and Al Qaeda hideouts and training camps.
A senior security official said the military used artillery and jet fighters to target Taliban positions in Sultan Zai and two other villages as foot soldiers engaged in ground battles.
“Twenty-one terrorists have been killed in the Anjani area in Lower Orakzai,” said the official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “One bunker, one ammunition dump and one training centre of terrorists have also been destroyed by security forces.”
A second security official said one soldier was injured.
Fazalur Rehman, a spokesman for the paramilitary Frontier Corps, confirmed the fighting was taking place but said he did not have detailed information on the clashes.
“We are targeting the terrorists who have fled security operations in the South Waziristan and Bajaur districts,” he said. “Orakzai Agency has become a major hiding place for those fugitive terrorists.”
Pakistan has launched a series of military assaults in Bajaur since 2008, and thousands of troops moved into the Taliban heartland of South Waziristan in mid-October.
The government forces have regained control of most of the territory in both districts, but thousands of Islamist fighters have fled to the neighbouring districts of Orakzai and Kurram.
Besides the Pakistani offensives, the US is also targeting militant hideouts with missile strikes by pilotless aircraft in the tribal region.
One of these drones fired two missiles late Tuesday on a residential apartment in a market in Miran Shah, the main town in the North Waziristan tribal district.
A local security official said the missile strike killed five militants and injured three. “Three of those killed were foreigners,” the official said.
Pakistani authorities use the term foreigner to refer to Al Qaeda militants of Arab or Central Asian origin.
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Tags: afghan border, airstrikes, ammunition dump, bajaur, foot soldiers, government forces, ground battles, jet fighters, kurram, missile strikes, neighbouring districts, north waziristan, paramilitary troops, qaeda hideouts, residential apartment, security official, security operations, senior security, south waziristan, zai