Pakistan says 80 militants killed in Khyber clashes

ISLAMBAD, March 22: Pakistani troops killed 80 militants in heavy clashes in the lawless northwest, near the mountainous border with Afghanistan, a spokesman said on Sunday, while the Pakistani Taliban said at least six soldiers had been killed.

Fighter jets have pounded positions in the Tirah Valley in the Khyber region, west of the city of Peshawar, over the last few days.

A security official said those killed last week belonged to the outlawed militant group Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and an allied group, Lashkar-e-Islam.

“In Khyber, terrorists being dislodged from bases, fleeing to border. So far 80 terrorists killed, approximately 100 injured in this phase,” the head of army’s media wing, Gen Asim Bajwa, said on his Twitter account.

“Operations will continue with full force till total terrorist elimination from these areas.”

Taliban spokesman Muhammed Khurassani said on Saturday there had been heavy fighting in the Tirah Valley for three days.

A mine “targeted” 12 soldiers and six were killed in a separate attack. Two intelligence sources said an army major was also killed and air strikes were also targeting the South Waziristan region, causing dozens to flee.

There was no way to confirm the casualties independently as the area is sealed to journalists.

The Pakistani Taliban are allied with the Afghan militants of the same name and share a similar jihadist ideology. But they operate as a separate entity, focused on toppling the Pakistani state and establishing strict Islamic rule in the nuclear-armed nation.

Security officials said last week there were strong indications the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Maulana Fazlullah, was in the area at the time of the air strikes and there has been constant speculation about his fate on social media.

Military offensives in Khyber and South Waziristan began in 2009.