Pakistani security forces say they have killed at least 16 militants overnight in the country’s volatile tribal region.
This appears to be separate from the hostilities in the military’s week-long crackdown in northwestern Pakistan against a Taliban militant advance in the country’s North West Frontier Province. However, this reflects the tensions in the region and could signal a spread of fighting resulting from the crackdown. The Pakistani offensive started in the province on Sunday and it came after Taliban militants moved into Buner district last week, a move that alarmed U.S. and Pakistani officials. In this latest incident, about 100 militants attacked a Frontier Corps checkpost in the Mohmand Agency, an area where militants hold great sway. Troops returned fire and killed the 16 militants, the military said. Mohmand is in the country’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas that borders a volatile region in war-torn Afghanistan and Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province. The military on Saturday released details about other incidents in the province that occurred over the last 24 hours. Troops conducted a successful operation against militants in the district, in the Ambela-Daggar area in the Buner district. They secured a key road and cleared roadside bombs, the military said.
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In the province’s Upper Dir district, militants abducted and then released 10 troops and seized their weaponry and ammunition. And two civilians were wounded when militants lobbed hand grenades. In the province’s Swat district, militants attacked a security forces checkpost on Khawazakhela Bridge and Sambat Ridge. In Langer, security forces and militants exchanged fire and forces found military uniforms that militants were using for terrorist activity. Three Afghan nationals were among five militants arrested while planting a roadside bomb. Earlier this year, Pakistan entered into an agreement with militants, allowing them to enforce Islamic, or sharia, in parts of Swat Valley in exchange for ceasing violence. The Swat Valley is a broader area that includes several provincial districts, including Chitral, Swat, Shangla, Malakand, Upper Dir, and Lower Dir. But Pakistani officials say the armed militants’ advance into Buner district violated the agreement and briefly halted peace talks between both sides in North West Frontier Province.
Representatives from Pakistan’s government and the Taliban restarted their negotiations on Friday and were planning to have another session soon, a provincial spokesman said. The Pakistani government has been criticized for not cracking down on militants along its border with Afghanistan. As a result, the U.S. military has carried out airstrikes against militant targets in Pakistan, which have rankled relations between the two countries.