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Clash With Militants Kills 7 Soldiers in Pakistan

FILE - A Pakistani soldier stands guard next to a fence along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan's Paktika province, in Angoor Adda, in Pakistan's South Waziristan tribal agency, Oct. 18, 2017.

Pakistan military officials on Wednesday said at least seven soldiers were killed in a gunfight with militants in a remote district bordering Afghanistan.

An army statement said security forces, acting on intelligence, raided a suspected terrorist hideout in South Waziristan and suffered the casualties in the ensuing “intense exchange of fire.”

At least five “terrorists” were also killed and a “cordon and search operation” was underway to clear the area of any remaining militants, the statement added.

The outlawed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) confirmed the overnight raid of one of its bases in the border district.

The militant group, commonly known as the Pakistani Taliban, claimed the firefight had killed nine Pakistani soldiers and injured several others while all TTP fighters managed to escape the area. It was not immediately possible to independently verify the group’s claims, which are often exaggerated.

The Pakistani Taliban is designated as a global terrorist organization by the United States.

Pakistan says the TTP uses sanctuaries in Afghanistan to orchestrate cross-border terrorist attacks.

The country’s military in recent years has conducted major offensives, backed by air power, in a bid to secure districts along the Afghan border, which have historically served as strongholds for local and foreign militant groups.

The security operations have forced TTP fighters to flee into Afghanistan and organize deadly attacks against Pakistan from that side of the border.

Last week, the TTP claimed responsibility for a suicide attack in Pakistan that killed at least three people and left 20 wounded. That latest attack came a month after the Afghan Taliban, to whom the TTP has vowed allegiance, seized power in Afghanistan by toppling the U.S.-backed government in Kabul.

Top Pakistani security officials say Islamabad is in contact with the Taliban-led government in Afghanistan, pressing the Islamist group to prevent TTP members from using Afghan soil to attack Pakistan.