Pakistan army kills eight rebels along Afghan border

October 26th, 2008 - 4:41 pm ICT by IANS  

TalibanIslamabad, Oct 26 (dpa) Pakistani army troops killed at least eight rebels Sunday as they continued with their push to root out Islamist militants in the restive Bajaur tribal district bordering Afghanistan, media reports said.Ground troops backed by helicopter gunships and artillery pounded militant positions in the Tang Khata and Chaharmang areas of Bajaur, which is considered a stronghold of Al Qaeda and Taliban militants, the Aaj television channel reported.

Aaj said at least eight militants were killed and several injured in the attacks that destroyed a number of fortified hideouts.

The clashes came a day after the military claimed that it had retaken the control of Loi Sam, a strategic village in Bajaur overlooking a key land route leading to Afghanistan.

The road was earlier used by the Taliban fighters to haul weapons and men to attack US-led international troops.

Major General Tariq Khan, the commander of Frontier Corps (FC) paramilitary force leading the offensive, said more than 1,500 rebels had been killed since August, including around 300 foreigners - a term generally used to describe Arab, Chechen and Uzbek Taliban.

Army casualties were 73 killed - 42 troops from the regular army and 31 from the FC - and 269 others wounded, Khan said.

The casualty toll given by the military could not be verified independently.

The deadly offensive in Bajaur has been hailed by US authorities, who say the crackdown has led to a sharp decline in cross-border raids on the US forces and Afghan troops.

But the military gains have come at a heavy civilian cost. Apart from an unspecified number of collateral deaths, the offensive caused a mass exodus of more than 250,000 people fleeing to safer grounds in Pakistan as well as Afghanistan.

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