Orakzai tribal district, Pakistan
Orakzai tribal district, Pakistan

ISLAMABAD - Military officials in Pakistan say a gunfight with militants killed two soldiers and five “terrorists” in a volatile northwestern region.

The clash occurred when security forces conducted an “intelligence-based operation” against a suspected militant hideout early Wednesday in the semi-autonomous Orakzai tribal district, according to an army statement.

The firefight killed a senior commander of the Pakistani Taliban along with four other militants while an army major and a soldier also died, it said. The statement identified the slain militant commander as Shah Durran, saying he was sent from Afghanistan to plot terrorist attacks in Orakzai.

Separately, a roadside bomb hit a security convoy, killing one person, near the Afghan border in the neighboring South Waziristan tribal district.

Pakistani authorities complain that anti-state militants fleeing counterterrorism operations have set up sanctuaries in “ungoverned areas” of Afghanistan and plot terrorist attacks from there.

US drone strike in Afghanistan

Meanwhile, militant sources have confirmed a U.S. drone strike in neighboring Afghanistan last Sunday killed a prominent Pakistani extremist commander, Qari Yasin. The U.S. military has not yet confirmed whether it carried out the attack.

An anti-state Pakistani militant faction, Jamaatul Ahrar, said Wednesday the drone attack occurred in the southeastern Afghan border province of Paktika.

Known as an explosive expert, Yasin was a central leader of al-Qaida-linked Pakistani Sunni militant outfit, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. He was accused of masterminding several high-profile terrorist attacks in Pakistan, including a rare militant raid on the army headquarters in Rawalpindi in 2009 and a deadly attack the same year on a bus in Lahore carrying Sri Lanka's visiting cricket team.

Pakistani officials suspect that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has lately joined hands with local affiliates of Islamic State and has been behind major terrorist attacks in the country, including last month’s deadly suicide bombing of a Sufi shrine in southern Sindh province. That assault killed more than 90 people and wounded 300 others. The victims were mostly members of the minority Shiite Muslim community.