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Pakistani Soldiers Kill Dozens of Pro-Taleban Militants


Pakistani officials say security forces have killed dozens of pro-Taleban militants near the Afghan border. The fighting erupted Saturday after a week of scattered clashes in the remote tribal area, a suspected stronghold for Taleban and al-Qaida fugitives.

Witnesses say hundreds of terrified villagers were fleeing the town of Mir Ali, as the violent clashes entered a second day.

Army helicopters provided air support, as hundreds of government forces engaged pro-Taleban militants in the North Waziristan tribal area.

Pakistani officials say most of the fighting took place in Mir Ali and the region's main town, Miran Shah.

Speaking to reporters, Military spokesman General Shaukat Sultan says militants in both towns suffered heavy casualties.

"In these two actions the militants lost 21 people in Mir Ali, and 25 people in the area around Miran Shah. In both incidents, the security forces have lost five personnel," said General Sultan.

He says the fighting largely subsided early Sunday, after overnight exchanges. Local residents say scattered clashes continued throughout the day.

The fighting reportedly broke out early Saturday, when more than 100 local militants attacked a security outpost in Mir Ali. The semi-automous tribal area is widely considered a regional stronghold for pro-Taleban and al-Qaida extremists.

Earlier this week, the military attacked a suspected al-Qaida training camp in the same area.

Government officials say the raid killed at least 45 mostly foreign militants, including Chechens, Tajiks, and Afghans.

The latest clashes continued a day after President Bush met with Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf in the capital about 300 kilometers away.

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