100 militants killed in Pakistan (Lead)September 12th, 2008 - 4:18 pm ICT by IANS
Islamabad, Sep 12 (IANS) Pakistani security forces, backed by air power, have killed up to 100 militants in fierce clashes near the Afghan border, a media report said Friday.”Eighty to 100 militants were killed in Bajaur (tribal agency) today (Thursday). Most of them are foreigners,” The News quoted an official as saying.
Pakistan Air Force jets and army gunship helicopters provided covering fire as the security forces rained mortar and artillery shells, destroying a big market in the Inayat Killay area that housed a big militant centre.
In the process, the security forces succeeded in retaking Rashakai, Tang Khatta and a strategically important location, Loisam, from the militants, thus cutting their supply lines, The News said.
The clashes erupted Thursday when militants hiding in the maize fields opened fire on the troops moving towards Loisam.
The troops called for air support and two jet fighters and a similar number of gunship helicopters quickly reached the scene.
Quoting military officials in Peshawar, The News said several Arab and Uzbek fighters, along with tribal militants affiliated to Baitullah Mehsud’s defunct Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), were killed in the fighting.
The fighting comes even as it has been revealed that US President George Bush had secretly authorised the coalition forces in Afghanistan to strike across the border if necessary to take on Taliban and Al Qaeda militants.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that the move to allow Special Operations forces to carry out assaults within the borders of a key “war on terror” ally marked a turn for the Bush administration.
The Pakistani Army reacted angrily, saying it would retaliate against any action by foreign troops inside the country.
The affirmation came Thursday as the Corps Commanders opened a two-day conference here chaired by army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
On Wednesday, Kayani had strongly rejected US claims that the rules of engagement gave the coalition forces in Afghanistan the right to enter Pakistani territory, saying the nation’s sovereignty will be defended at all costs.
“The rules of engagement with the coalition forces are well defined and within that the right to conduct operations against the militants inside own territory is solely the responsibility of the respective armed forces,” Kayani said in a statement.
“There is no question of any agreement or understanding with the coalition forces whereby they are allowed to conduct operations on our side of the border,” he added.