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At least 16 suspected militants slain in Pakistan

September 15, 2008|From the Associated Press

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN — Security forces killed at least 16 suspected militants and wounded 25 Sunday in a besieged tribal region, Pakistani officials said.

More than 100 people, most of them militants, have been reported killed in the fighting in the Bajaur tribal area in the last five days.

The region, which borders Afghanistan, is a suspected hide-out of Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman Zawahiri.

The latest clashes came amid tension between the U.S. and Pakistan over American incursions aimed at eradicating militants in the Muslim nation's territory.

Security forces used helicopter gunships, fighter jets and heavy artillery to attack suspected militant positions in the Loi Sam, Rashakai, Tang Khata and Gollokass areas of Bajaur, said Iqbal Khattak, a government official.

The government said late last month that it would cease military operations in Bajaur for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, but reserved the right to retaliate against insurgent activities.

Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said factors including persistent militant mortar attacks and threats to pro-government tribes prompted the military to restart its operation.

Hundreds of militants were reported killed in Bajaur in August in the military offensive, which also was said to have displaced about 300,000 people. The figures have been difficult to confirm independently because of the remote and dangerous nature of the areas involved.

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