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File photo/AP

PESHAWAR: The death toll in a gun-battle that had erupted between the proscribed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its rival group Ansarul Islam (AI) in the Khyber tribal region had risen to at least 40.

The gun-fight had started late on Thursday in Maidan village in Khyber's Tirah Valley.

Arshad Khan, an official from the Khyber tribal region, told the Associated Press on Saturday that the clashes had started when the TTP had captured a base of the AI in the valley.

The AI had then tried to retake the base and that fighting was continuing.

Moreover, a military officer requesting anonymity said most of the dead were militants but some local tribesmen were also killed.

Khyber is among Pakistan’s seven semi-autonomous tribal districts near the Afghan border, rife with homegrown insurgents and home to religious extremist organisations including the Al Qaeda.

The remote Tirah valley holds strategic significance for militant groups. On one side, it shares a border with Afghanistan. On the other it leads to the plains of Bara, which connect the agency to the outskirts of Peshawar.

Khyber also links several agencies to each other, serving as a north-south route within the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). The region has been long fought over by a mix of militant organisations, including the TTP, the AI and Mangal Bagh’s Lashkar-i-Islam.

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