Troops kill 30 militants in Pakistan

March 5th, 2010 - 8:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, March 5 (DPA) At least 30 Taliban militants were killed by security forces Friday in Pakistan’s restive tribal region near the Afghan border, a security official said.
The authorities were trying to confirm reports that the deputy head of the Pakistani Taliban, Maulvi Faqir Mohammad, was among those killed.

A senior official with the paramilitary Frontier Corps, which spearheads security operations in the tribal region, said the militants died when helicopter gunships pounded their hideouts in the Mohmand district.

The strikes came a day after dozens of Islamist insurgents raided a security check post in Mohmand’s Chamarkand area, killing two soldiers and injuring two more.

The government forces repulsed the pre-dawn attack, claiming to have killed 30 attackers, who, according to officials, were from the adjoining Bajaur district.

Pakistani authorities recently declared victory over the Taliban in Bajaur, but Mohammad, the top Taliban commander in the district, remained at large.

Mohammad is the deputy head of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, an umbrella organisation for more than 12 militant outfits.

His death would be a major blow for the Pakistani Taliban in general and for the militants in Bajaur in particular.

“We have received information that 30 Taliban militants were killed in the airstrikes,” said the Frontier Corps official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Some reports say that Maulvi Faqir was also killed, but we are trying to confirm the reports.”

The official said that according to other reports, an Afghan commander, Qari Ziaur Rehman, who was fighting Pakistani troops in Bajaur, had also perished in the operation.

Government forces launched an offensive in Bajaur in August 2008 against the Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters launching cross-border attacks on NATO forces in the Afghan province of Kunar.

The 17-month campaign, which resulted in death of 2,200 militants and 149 soldiers, culminated with the seizure of a huge complex of tunnels and caves often visited by Al Qaeda operatives in Damadola.

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