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Pakistani Troops Kill 84 Taliban Fighters

Pakistani troops have killed at least 84 Taliban fighters and lost five of soldiers in two days of clashes in a northwestern tribal region believed to be a militant stronghold.

Top military officials in Pakistan say that clashes in the Orakzai tribal region erupted early this week after militants launched repeated attacks on security forces in the area.

The fighting intensified on Thursday when Pakistani planes bombed several militant bases in the area and killed at least 50 Taliban as well as al-Qaida linked fighters.

The air raids provoked a major militant assault Friday morning on a security post in the Kalaya area. Authorities say that more than 100 Taliban insurgents took part in the attack, which left a military officer and four soldiers dead.

Major-General Tariq Khan is the Commander of the paramilitary force leading the offensive in the area. After attending the funeral of the officer killed in Friday's Taliban attack, he spoke to reporters in Peshawar.

General Khan says the early morning counter attack that his troops launched to recapture the security post left dozens of militants dead. He says that 32 bodies his men collected from the battle field are of Uzbek and Arab nationals.

The military commander says that the "multi-directional" offensive in Orakzai is aimed at hunting Taliban insurgents who have fled a major anti-militancy operation in the nearby South Waziristan tribal region. Authorities say they have killed more than 800 militants in the Waziristan operation and have detained hundreds of others.

The United States has praised the Pakistani military for its recent gains against Taliban militants in the border areas. Successfully combating militants on the Pakistani side of the border is believe to be the key to winning the U.S.-led war against the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.

Pakistan's Orakzai tribal region is considered a stronghold of the leader of the local Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud. Many in Pakistan believe that the militant leader was killed in one of the U.S drone attack on his hide out early this year.

Top civilian and military officials from Pakistan and the United States concluded two days of strategic talks in Washington on Thursday. The two sides have agreed to strengthen bilateral economic cooperation and pledged increased coordination in tackling militants on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.