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19 militants, 7 soldiers killed in Pak clash

Two Hizbul Mujhaideen militants were killed in an overnight encounter with security forces in Tral area of south Kashmir's Pulwama district.

Islamabad: At least 19 militants, including top commanders, and seven soldiers have been killed in intense fighting between Pakistani troopers and Taliban insurgents in the country’s restive northwest tribal area, army said today.

The fighting took place near the Afghan border in North Waziristan, where militants continue to remain active despite an year-old military operation in the region.

“19 terrorists were killed including 5 of their commanders in an intense exchange of fire with security forces last night in uncleared pocket” of North Waziristan, said military spokesman Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa.

When the militants were cornered and chased by security forces, one of them exploded his suicide jacket, killing seven soldiers, Bajwa said in a statement.

The Pakistani army claims to have cleared about 90 per cent of the region of militants, but the insurgents have holed up in Shawal region, near the Afghan border.

Shawal became a militant stronghold when terrorists took refuge in inaccessible areas of the region, after last year’s massive military operation against them in North Waziristan.

The military in June last year launched the ground-and-air blitz against militant groups in the tribal area, forcing millions to leave their homes and settle in other areas.

Efforts are underway to clear the last of the strongholds of the rebels, who have killed more than 55,000 people in over a decade of insurgency in Pakistan.

North Waziristan is one of the seven regions in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas governed by tribal laws and is rife with insurgency.

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