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Dozen militants killed in Orakzai clashes

June 02, 2010

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The latest attack on militant hideouts took place in the wake of a military victory in the tribal region.—File photo


 PESHAWAR More than a dozen militants were killed Wednesday in a district where Pakistan declared an end to major combat operations hours earlier after a two-month assault, security officials said.

Helicopter gunships shelled suspected Taliban hideouts near the towns of Kaasha and Toti Mela in the northwest Orakzai tribal district, killing seven militants, local administration official Sajjad Ahmed told AFP.

More than a dozen militants attacked an army checkpost in the Shahu Khel area in which two soldiers were wounded, the official said.

“Troops retaliated killing six militants and wounding eight. The attack was launched by a group of 15-20 militants,” Ahmed said.

Other security officials said 20 militants were killed and 12 wounded in helicopter gunship attacks and ground clashes in upper parts of Orakzai.

It is impossible, however, to confirm casualty statistics independently in what is a closed military zone inaccessible to aid workers and journalists.

A military spokesman in the northwest said there was “complete peace” in the lower reaches of Orakzai, where displaced families had started to return over the past two weeks, he said.

Intelligence sources said upper Orakzai was more volatile and troops were engaged against militants in Ghalju and Dabori towns.

Military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told AFP that major operations in Orakzai were over, although “stabilisation” operations may continue.

“There are very small pockets of resistance which are being cleared, but the major population centres have been cleared and that includes the passes that were connected to the Tirah valley in the north,” he said.

Since March 26, 46 soldiers and 106 militants had been killed in Orakzai, Abbas said. Around 333 suspects were arrested and 200 military personnel wounded, he added.