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Pakistan Claims 30 Militants Killed in Khyber Region

Pakistan security forces killed 30 militants in gun battles in the mountainous northwestern Khyber region on Saturday, a senior official said, but a spokesman for the militants denied suffering any losses.

Both sides have been making conflicting claims about their success in clashes in Tirah Valley, near the Afghan border, and there is no way to confirm casualties independently as the area is sealed off to journalists.

“The security forces had started advancement towards the hilltops where the terrorists had established sanctuaries,” a senior security official in Peshawar, who requested that he not be identified, said. “So far, 30 terrorists have been killed and a number of their compounds destroyed.”

He said “fierce” fighting was continuing.

The bodies of 10 Pakistani Taliban fighters were taken away along with weapons and ammunition, the military said in a statement. Three soldiers were also wounded, it said.

Trying to reclaim area

The air force, struggling to reclaim land lost to the militants years ago, has been pounding positions in the Tirah Valley for days and the military said before Saturday's clashes it had killed more than 100 militants. At least seven soldiers had also been killed, it said.

Salahuddin Ayubi, a spokesman for the Lashkar-e-Islami, which announced an alliance with the Pakistani Taliban earlier this month, denied suffering losses on Saturday.

Ayubi said fighting between their fighters and Pakistani forces started early on Saturday in parts of the valley.

“We didn't suffer human losses. Our fighters are engaged in fighting and didn't vacate their posts in Tirah,” he told Reuters.

Taliban sources said that leaders had urged fighters to get to the valley and support Lashkar-e-Islami.

The Pakistani and Afghan Taliban share a similar jihadist ideology but operate as separate entities. The Pakistani Taliban is focused on toppling the state and establishing strict Islamic rule.

A military official said on condition of anonymity on Friday that it would be extremely difficult for Pakistan to commit troops to a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen as it was already overstretched on its own borders.