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15 security personnel killed by militants in Pakistan

04-22-2011 15:42 BJT

ISLAMABAD, April 22 (Xinhua) -- Heavily armed militants attacked a security checkpoint in Pakistan's northwest and killed at least 15 soldiers, local media reported on Friday.

A large number of militants, with heavy weapons including rockets, launched a big attack on a check post in Lower Dir district along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border early Friday morning, reported Urdu TV channel ARY quoting security officials.

Army helicopter gunships later bombed positions of the militants in the mountainous areas, but there had been no report of the militants' casualties.

Several soldiers were also injured and the army removed the bodies and injured to a hospital in Timergara, a main town in Dir district. The injured were later shifted to Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa province.

The firing between the security forces and the militants is still going on, said the report.

Officials in the area said that militants from Afghanistan had crossed into Pakistan and backed the Pakistani militants in the attack, the biggest in recent months.

Sources said that around 34 border security personnel and 10 policemen were jointly manning the border check post when attacked by the militants.

They said the security forces returned fire after they were attacked by the militants and both sides exchanged fire for several hours. Army helicopters were called for support, which shelled hideouts of the militants.

There are unconfirmed reports that the militants have also held several soldiers hostage.

District Dir had been the stronghold of the Taliban militants, who were expelled by the security forces in major operations in 2009. Official believe that militants from the nearby Bajaur tribal region and Swat valley have taken shelter in the mountainous regions of Dir district.

They are thought to be hiding in Pakistan areas about 15 kilometers from the Afghan border.

Correspondents in the region said that hundreds of people have fled homes after heavy exchange of fire between the militants and the security forces.

They said on phone from Dir that they have seen helicopters moving to the conflict area and fresh contingents of troops heading to the area for a major operation. The security forces have also imposed curfew in some areas and the residents have been asked to stay indoor or shift to safe places.

Recently the Pakistani armed forces have stepped up their strikes against the militants active in the country's northwest areas. In a recent two-day military operation launched by the Pakistani army, about 50 militants were killed in Mohmand Agency, a tribal area bordering Afghanistan. On Wednesday, another 12 militants were reportedly killed in a military operation launched by the Pakistani armed forces in the same area of Mohmand Agency.

Editor:Yang Jie |Source: Xinhua

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