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US Denies Reports That Helicopters Crossed Into Pakistan

The U.S. Department of Defense is denying Pakistani tribal leaders' allegations that Pakistani soldiers forced U.S. military helicopters to turn back to Afghanistan after the aircraft allegedly crossed into Pakistani territory.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman Monday said he investigated the alleged incident and found it "did not happen."

Tribal leaders in South Waziristan say Pakistani soldiers fired warning shots at the U.S. helicopters before dawn Monday.

But a Pakistani army spokesman denied that account. He said U.S. helicopters did not cross into Pakistani airspace and that Pakistani soldiers were not responsible for the gunfire.

However, he did confirm that there had been shooting.

Whitman says there is no mission that correlates to the tribal leaders' reports, and he said there are no military reports about any U.S. helicopter being fired upon.

In other news, a Pakistani official says government troops backed by helicopter gunships killed 15 suspected militants in the Bajuar tribal region Monday near the Afghan border.

Pakistan says more than 100 people, most of them militants, have been killed in the area in the past few days as part of a renewed military offensive.

In a separate development, militants in Pakistan's northwestern Swat Valley say they have released 25 of the nearly 40 soldiers and police officers they abducted in July.

A spokesman, Muslim Khan, for the Tehrik-e-Taliban Swat says the members of the Pakistani security forces were freed today. The militants are still holding 13 others hostage.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.