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40 militants killed near Khyber Pass in Pakistan

September 02, 2009|Associated Press

PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN — Government forces destroyed four militant bases and killed 40 insurgents Tuesday in a new offensive near Pakistan's famed Khyber Pass, the main route for supplies to Western troops in Afghanistan, authorities said.

The offensive follows a suicide blast in the region last week that killed 19 police officers at a key border crossing.

Tariq Hayat Khan, the top administrator in Khyber, told reporters that 40 militants were killed and 43 were arrested.

The four destroyed bases belonged to the militant group Lashkar-e-Islam, he said. The death toll could not be independently verified.

The military paraded the detainees, blindfolded with their own shirts and hands tied, at a news briefing in Peshawar. An Associated Press photographer saw a handicapped man among the suspects who was carried in from a military truck by a soldier.

A truck loaded with the bodies of militants was seen outside the briefing.

Khan gave no indication of whether a sustained operation was planned in the area, through which scores of trucks carrying fuel and other goods to U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan travel each day. The convoys are often attacked.

Pakistan is under intense U.S. pressure to crack down on militants close to the Afghan border, a lawless region where Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is believed to be hiding.

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