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GHALANAI, Dec 24: Taliban militants attacked five checkpoints in the troubled Mohmand Agency after Thursday midnight, sparking a clash which left 11 paramilitary soldiers and 24 attackers dead.

Political agent Amjad Ali Khan told reporters on Friday that the bodies of seven insurgents had been found.

But the Taliban denied the claim and said they had lost only two men in the clash which followed the midnight attack. Sajjad Mohmand, a spokesman for the Taliban in Mohmand, claimed that two soldiers had been captured.

Officials said that about 150 militants had launched coordinated attacks on the five checkpoints — three in tehsil Safi and two in Baizai — at about 1.30am.

They said that 11 soldiers of the Frontier Corps had lost their lives and 12 others suffered injuries in the attacks. Security personnel used heavy artillery to repulse the attacks. Cobra helicopters called in to assist the ground forces pounded militants’ positions. Transport helicopters ferried between Peshawar and Ghalanai throughout the day.

Militants have strong concentration in some pockets of Mohmand Agency from where they carry out attacks on security forces. Sources said that the Taliban were still operating in Safi, Baizai and Pendiali areas.

On Dec 6, two suicide bombers blew themselves up at an official compound in Ghalanai, the agency headquarters, killing 45 civilians and security guards and injuring 60 others.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Owais Ahmed Ghani condemned the attacks on soldiers and said that security forces were fully alert to defend the country’s geographical frontiers and would forcefully retaliate to frustrate any assault on the country’s sovereignty from across the western borders.

In a statement issued in Peshawar, Mr Ghani praised soldiers guarding security posts on the border. He said that miscreants were doing all this to destabilise the country at the behest of enemies.

AFP adds: Security officials rejected the Taliban’s claim of capturing two paramilitary soldiers and said that no-one was missing.

“We have killed 12 soldiers and occupied a checkpost,” a Taliban spokesman claimed.

Security officials earlier said that at least three soldiers were killed in the attacks. They said that security forces had cordoned off the area and were searching for the fleeing militants, while reinforcements were sent in “to beef up the checkpoints”.

Mohmand is one of seven tribal districts and has seen much of the violence linked to Taliban militants.

Around 4,000 people have died in suicide and bomb attacks across Pakistan since 2007. The attacks have been blamed on networks linked to the Taliban and Al Qaeda.