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Pakistani forces kill 58 alleged militants

Associated Press / May 17, 2010

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PARACHINAR, Pakistan — The military killed 58 suspected militants in northwestern Pakistan yesterday with a mix of air strikes and ground combat, the latest violence in a months-long campaign to rout Taliban fighters from a mountainous area near the Afghan border.

The Pakistani military launched the ongoing offensive in the Orakzai tribal region in mid-March to flush out militants who fled an army offensive last year in nearby South Waziristan. Persistent artillery and aircraft attacks have killed hundreds of insurgents over the past two months, the military says.

Fighter jets and helicopter gunships attacked militants’ sanctuaries yesterday in the villages of Dabori, Gojar, and Kamer Mela in Orakzai, killing 40 suspected insurgents, said Samiullah Khan, a senior government administrator in Orakzai.

Later in the day, troops attacked militant hide-outs in Koul village, triggering clashes that killed 18 suspected insurgents, said Jehanzeb Khan, a local administrator. Five soldiers and at least 25 militants were wounded in the fighting. The injured militants were taken into custody, he said.

It was impossible to independently confirm the casualties and their identities because the region is remote and dangerous and media access restricted.

Thousands of people have fled the offensive in the area and many have moved in with relatives in nearby districts.

Elsewhere in Pakistan’s tribal region yesterday, militants who kidnapped 60 people at gunpoint the day before released 40 of their hostages, said local administrator Rasheed Khan.

Another 10 people told the local government they managed to escape the militants, who ambushed the group in Kurram as they headed to the northwestern city of Peshawar, Khan said.

The hostages released by the militants were mostly women, children, and poor men, said Khan. The kidnappers kept the wealthier men so they could demand ransom from their families, he said.