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Pakistan intensifies battle with militants

PAKISTANI forces battled militants on multiple fronts in the country's restive northwest yesterday, including the primary base for the country's Taliban chief, officials said. More than 60 militants were reportedly killed.

In South Waziristan in the country's tribal belt, about 400 militants attacked two military forts, triggering battles that killed 22 militants and three troops, the military said in a statement.

Intelligence officials told reporters that the militants attacked with rockets and guns.

The clashes in South Waziristan, a rugged, remote region along the Afghan border where Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud is based, came amid rumblings that the Pakistani military will launch a new offensive there on the heels of its operation in the Swat Valley.

Also yesterday, army helicopter gunships targeted militant positions in the northwest Bannu, Hangu and Upper Dir regions, killing two local Taliban commanders and some of their associates, three intelligence officials said.

The army said government forces secured two villages in the Upper Dir region, where a citizens' militia has been fighting the Taliban for almost a week in several towns.

Clashes also continued in several areas of the Swat Valley, where the military launched an offensive in late April to clear out the Taliban.

Verifying reports from the various fronts is nearly impossible because of restrictions on journalists.

The army says it has killed more than 1,300 militants in the Swat operation.

A surge in deadly attacks across Pakistan is being blamed on militants who have vowed a campaign of bombings in retaliation for the Swat campaign.

Assailants in separate attacks yesterday hurled two hand grenades in two business areas of northwestern Dera Ismail Khan town, killing one person and wounding 29 others.

A bomb exploded in the toilet of a passenger train traveling from Quetta to Karachi in the country's southwest, killing one and wounding 35 others yesterday.


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