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— File Photo

PESHAWAR: The battle for key heights in Tirah valley intensified on Monday as Jet fighters and gunship helicopters pounded militant positions.

Military sources told Dawn.com that they have reports 30 security forces have so far been killed along with 97 militants.

Scores of militants have reportedly been killed in the strikes backed by artillery and mortar fire as ground troops also started advancing on militant hideouts.

Though the exact number of casualties in the clashes are not known, reports coming in from Tirah valley suggest the death toll on both sides is very high as the security forces take on Lashkar-i-Islam (LI) militants in Akakhel area.

Security forces also claim that LI and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) posts in Maidan, Akakhel and Bagh have been overrun and that a fierce battle is still continuing.

“The militants have been putting up a stiff resistance in the last two days, ever since the offensive was launched on Friday,” security forces stated.

The TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan speaking to Dawn.com, confirmed that the LI is fighting the security forces, but also said that TTP fighters are not involved at the moment. However he did say that the TTP would support the LI when needed.

Ehsanullah Ehsan added they had reports that five LI activists, including a key commander, had been killed.

The TTP spokesman said some fighters have also been injured but did know the exact number of casualties, which are said to be high.

The Tirah valley operation has been planned for many months after authorities felt that militants were consolidating their positions there and that an offensive was needed to root them out.

Due to the area being inaccessible, the exact death toll could not be verified from independent sources. The media have had to rely mostly on local sources, military and claims made by the militants.

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