At least 20 die in Pakistan clashes
KHAR, Pakistan - Clashes between security forces and militants left at least 20 people dead in a region of northwest Pakistan that the army claimed to have cleared of insurgents earlier this year, government officials said yesterday.
The violence in the Bajur region underscores the difficulties Islamabad faces as it seeks to root out insurgents from the tribal belt along the Afghan border where Al Qaeda and Taliban militants have long enjoyed a safe haven.
The deadliest fighting took place in the village of Chinnar in the Charmang Valley, where Taliban militants ambushed an army convoy yesterday afternoon, said Jamil Khan, a local government official. Four insurgents and two soldiers were killed in the attack.
Two hours later, the military pounded the area with helicopter gunships and artillery, killing 10 more militants, Khan said.
Access to the region is restricted and it was not possible to independently verify the account.
The attack comes fewer than 24 hours after dozens of militants overran a police post and killed four officers in the city of Khar, said Adalat Khan, a government official.
Khar is the main town in Bajur and was heavily damaged in the army offensive to retake it.
The Pakistani army said in March a six-month offensive had defeated the militants in their Bajur stronghold, which lies just next door to the insurgency-ravaged Afghan region of Kunar. But there has been an uptick in small-scale assaults on government forces in the Bajur area.