PESHAWAR: At least six people were killed Saturday in a day-long gun battle between militants and government troops in Pakistan's troubled northwestern tribal region, officials said.
The fighting took place as Pakistani troops, backed by helicopter gunships, carried out a search operation around the town of Bara in the lawless Khyber tribal district bordering Afghanistan.
“At least two paramilitary soldiers were martyred and four civilians were killed in the day-long gunfight,” Khyber's deputy administration chief Syed Ahmed Jan told AFP. He added that seven militants were killed in the fighting.
A senior paramilitary official said the militants belonged to the Taliban-linked Laskhar-i-Islam group that is led by warlord Mangal Bagh.
Independent verification of the incident is not possible as access to the area is restricted by the military.
Some 18,000 people fled their homes in Khyber in October last year amid fears of a fresh onslaught of fighting between the army and Islamist militants linked to the Pakistani Taliban.
Pakistan's seven tribal districts near the Afghan border are rife with homegrown insurgents and are strongholds of Taliban and al Qaeda operatives.
Militants have killed more than 4,800 people across Pakistan since government troops raided an extremist mosque in Islamabad in July 2007.