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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 January 2006, 16:42 GMT
Many die in Pakistan tribal clash
Pakistani soldier in North Waziristan
Thousands of troops are stationed in the region
Seven Pakistani troops and 14 suspected militants have died in fierce fighting on the Afghan border, the army says.

The soldiers died in a rocket attack on an army post in the North Waziristan tribal area. Troops returned fire, killing 14 militants, the army said.

Military spokesman Maj-Gen Shaukat Sultan told the BBC the militants included locals and foreigners.

Another 22 people have died in recent fighting, eight of them troops and eight villagers killed at the weekend.

'Neutralise'

Pakistan's army said two of those killed in the latest rocket attack - in the village of Sarbanki near Miran Shah - were soldiers, while five others were from the paramilitary Frontier Corps.

Foreigners are involved in this and along with them are their local facilitators
Military spokesman Shaukat Sultan

Two women in Sarbanki were injured after being hit by stray bullets.

Reports said several soldiers were also wounded.

Maj-Gen Sultan told the BBC that the militants' local leader, Bilal, had been killed in the fighting.

He said the authorities would continue their efforts "to expel foreigners from the area and neutralise local miscreants".

Tens of thousands of Pakistani soldiers are deployed in the tribal area to hunt for Taleban and al-Qaeda militants who fled the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

More than 200 Pakistani soldiers have lost their lives in the fighting while the military claims it has killed about 600 militants.

'Soldiers missing'

On Saturday at least eight troops died when an army checkpoint was attacked at around midnight, about 24km (15 miles) east of Miran Shah.

Reports say the attackers were armed with assault rifles and rockets. Several soldiers are still missing.

The army responded with helicopter gunships, attacking what it said were the hideouts of suspected militants. It said at least three people were killed.

In a separate incident, people in the village of Saidgai, 12km (eight miles) north of Miran Shah, said military helicopters opened fire on a house early on Saturday leaving eight people dead and a number of others injured.

Islamabad protested to US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan over the incident, which the Pakistani army is investigating.

Pakistani officials insist the firing came from across the border but deny US forces entered Pakistani territory.

In December a man described by the government as a top al-Qaeda commander, Egyptian-born Abu Hamza Rabia, was killed in North Waziristan.

Officials said that he and four others died when their explosives blew up. Local people said their house came under helicopter gunfire.




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