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Pakistan Targets Islamic Militants in Tribal Area


Pakistani troops have killed at least 25 suspected militants, some of them thought to be foreigners, in an attack near the Afghan border. The so-called tribal area is where pro-Taleban militants from Afghanistan are thought to be hiding.

The overnight raid is the latest in a series of clashes between government security forces and pro-Taleban militants in the North Waziristan tribal area.

Military spokesman General Shaukat Sultan says the attack was launched late Friday after intelligence reports confirmed militants were hiding in a small compound near Miran Shah, the region's main town.

"The militants were both foreigners and locals. So on that we knocked it (the compound) out and it was destroyed," he said.

He said security forces killed dozens of militants and destroyed a huge cache of weapons and explosives.

Local residents say the compound was owned by a cleric who is considered to be pro-Taleban, Maulvi Sadiq Noor.

It remains unclear whether he was present during the attack.

Security forces have been hunting Noor for his role in a recent attack on government buildings in Miran Shah.

Hundreds of pro-Taleban militants tried to seize control of the town and one other nearby village last week, sparking an intense government counter attack throughout the area.

Subsequent fighting has killed more than 100 militants and at least eight security troops while thousands of residents fled the area.

It is the worst violence in the tribal regions in nearly two years, and is stoking concerns that the central government has lost control over key portions of the area.

Afghan authorities claim Taleban insurgents are using the area for training camps and to launch attacks inside Afghanistan.

Pakistani officials say they are doing everything they can to improve border security, including deploying 80,000 troops to the area.

General Sultan says it is Afghanistan's turn to step up and share some of the burden for patrolling the border.

"We are trying but the effort has to be from both sides," he said. "The number of troops on that side also has to be increased to enhance security so that people do not come from that side toward this side."

The tribal region has strong cultural and religious ties to Afghanistan and is considered a stronghold for pro-Taleban sentiment.

Dozens of senior Taleban and al-Qaida fugitives, including al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden are thought to be hiding in the tribal areas.

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