Pakistani troops kill 38 militants in northwest (Lead)

April 4th, 2010 - 9:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, April 4 (DPA) At least 38 militants were killed and more than a dozen injured Sunday in clashes with the troops and airstrikes by helicopter gunships in Pakistan’s restive northwest region, security officials said.
Most of the killings took place in the mountainous northwestern district of Orakzai, where government forces are carrying out a major offensive to expel Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters.

A senior security official said dozens of militants raided a security check post in the district but the troops repulsed the attack. Later on helicopter gunships targeted the retreating militants.

“Altogether, 21 terrorists, including a commander, were killed and 14 more injured,” said a senior military official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Fourteen more died when the troops made advances in another area of the district, added the official.

Pakistani troops moved into the lawless district in late March in the pursuit of hundreds of Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters fleeing an earlier army offensive in the neighbouring district of South Waziristan.

According to officials, about 250 Islamist insurgents have been killed in the last two weeks. Many of those eliminated were Al Qaeda operatives of Arab and Central Asian origin.

The figure is difficult to verify independently since the access to the area remains extremely limited.

The operation has triggered massive displacement. The Dawn newspaper cited a senior official saying that 170,000 people have fled their homes in Orakzai over the months.

Most of them are staying at make-shift camps in Hangu district of North-West Frontier Province.

The US has praised Pakistan’s action against militants in tribal region that it describes as the most dangerous place in the world and a hub of global terrorism.

Also Sunday, Taliban blew up a girls’ school in Bakhmal Shah village in neighbouring Mohmand tribal district. There were no casualties in the blast.

The militants planted explosive devices at various places and destroyed most of the building, Akbar Khan, a local government official said on the phone.

Pakistani militants have destroyed hundreds of schools, mostly for girls, in the tribal region and the adjoining North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) since late 2007 when they launched an insurgency in the region.

Separately, three militants died in a gunfight with the security forces in NWFP’s Malakand region, Geo television reported. Two security personnel were injured in the shootout.

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