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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 January 2008, 15:36 GMT
Pakistan 'seizes back key tunnel'
A Pakistani tank during an assault on Dara Adam Khel
Pakistan put major resources into its military response
Pakistani security forces say they have recaptured an important road tunnel which was seized by pro-Taleban militants on Thursday.

A battle has raged around the Kohat tunnel since Pakistan launched an operation to reclaim it on Friday.

The military said as many as 70 militants had died in the assault.

In holding the tunnel, the militants blocked the government's main route between the city of Peshawar and the volatile Afghan border area.

Its closure stranded hundreds of vehicles on either side.

The border areas of North West Frontier Province are a hotbed of militancy and a feeding ground for the Taleban, and have seen growing violence directed at the Pakistani government and its forces.

Hundreds flee

The tunnel is in the vicinity of Dara Adam Khel, a town which security officials say had recently become a stronghold of the al-Qaeda linked Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the AFP news agency reported.

On Thursday militants there seized four trucks carrying ammunition and other supplies for government troops, and blocked the tunnel.

The military mounted its response on Friday. Helicopter gunships and artillery were used to dislodge militants from the hilltops surrounding Dara Adam Khel.

Hundreds of people have fled the area during the onslaught.

Security forces said 24 militants died in fighting on Sunday, and there were reports of at least 45 being killed in previous days. The government said two of its own troops had been killed.

Meanwhile the government is also battling militants in the province of South Waziristan, where the insurgency is led by Baitullah Mehsud, who is accused by the government of being behind the murder of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.

Fierce fighting in South Waziristan over the past week has led to the deaths of at least 150 militants and more than 20 government soldiers, news agencies report.

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