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Dozens killed in Pakistan border clash

KHAR, Pakistan — About 150 Islamist militants attacked five security posts Friday in an unusually large and coordinated assault close to the Afghan border, sparking hours of fighting that killed 11 soldiers and 24 insurgents, officials said.

Al-Qaida and Taliban militants often stage attacks in northwest Pakistan, but the overnight assaults were notable for their size and the level of planning needed. They underlined that insurgents in the tribal areas along the frontier retain significant capabilities despite multiple military offensives in the region since 2008.

It is also rare for authorities to sustain — or admit to sustaining — such heavy casualties in a single day.

The top government official in Mohmand, Amjad Ali Khan, said 11 soldiers were killed and 12 wounded in the fighting.

The troops called in helicopter gunships to help push back the militants, said Maj. Fazl Ur Rehman, a spokesman for the Frontier Corps security force. The fighting ended by morning.

What little information the army gives out about its operations in the tribal regions is nearly impossible to verify independently because access is restricted and the conflict zones are dangerous. The army says 2,500 of its soldiers have been killed by Islamist militants there since 2001.

It claims to have retaken large areas from the insurgents, but attacks have continued and the state has had trouble holding ground. Mohmand has been a trouble spot for years and the focus of multiple army operations.

Its border location makes it a valuable transit point for insurgents seeking to travel to Afghanistan, where U.S. and NATO forces are fighting a related insurgency.

Also Friday, a remote-controlled bomb rigged to a bike exploded on the outskirts of Quetta in southwestern Pakistan, killing a police officer and wounding five, police said. Quetta is the capital of Baluchistan, where a long-running insurgent movement that wants greater autonomy for the region has targeted security officials.

Dozens killed in Pakistan border clash 12/24/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 1:44pm]
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