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Last Updated: Monday, 17 September 2007, 15:19 GMT 16:19 UK
Rebels 'kill 18 Pakistan troops'
By Dilawar Khan Wazir
BBC News, Dera Ismail Khan

Pakistani Army soldiers take position at Sholam Post, South Waziristan April 2007
The army says 16 soldiers are missing
Pro-Taleban militants have killed 18 soldiers in Pakistan's tribal area of North Waziristan, local officials say.

The soldiers are believed to have been shot dead after being captured in fierce fighting in the Razmak area that started last Thursday.

The army recently launched fresh operations against pro-Taleban militants in the tribal areas along the Afghan border.

Senior US officials recently called the region a safe haven for militants.

Pounded

Locals told the BBC the men appeared to have been shot dead in cold blood.

map

Commenting on the reports, the military said that 16 of their men had gone missing.

The soldiers are believed to have been captured after army troops raided militant positions in the Razmak area, north of the main town in the region, Wana.

Army gun ships pounded militant hideouts on Thursday backed by ground troops.

The militants retaliated with heavy weapons and the fighting continued over several hours.

Locals say the militants were able to inflict heavy casualties in the counter attacks.

The militants themselves claim to have killed more than 150 soldiers. They also said they captured several troops.

This was denied by an army spokesman, who said at least 70 militants had been killed in the army offensive.

Local administration officials say that members of a local tribal council have already been despatched to recover the bodies.

The incident comes as militants continue to hold more than 200 soldiers captured two weeks ago after being ambushed.


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