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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 November 2007, 07:13 GMT
Army claims Pakistan rebel deaths
Militants in Swat
Militants in Swat maintain are highly visible
At least 33 militants have been killed in clashes between the army and pro-Taleban rebels in north-western Pakistan, the military has said.

The troops attacked rebel positions in the mountains of Swat using helicopter gunships and artillery.

Two soldiers were also killed in the attack, the army said.

Located near the country's restive tribal area along the Afghan border, Swat has been the scene of recent clashes between the two sides.

The authorities say there are fears that the Swat valley is becoming a haven for al-Qaeda and the Taleban and last month the army sent reinforcements to the area.

Shelling

The men were killed on Wednesday in a series of attacks in Swat, a valley about 160kms (100 miles) northwest of the capital, Islamabad, army spokesman Maj Gen Waheed Arshad said.

"Helicopters were used in the operation. They shelled known militant positions on hill tops," he said.

"In one incident a vehicle carrying 17 militants was targeted, the vehicle fell from a hilltop and all were killed. They were militants, there is no doubt, they had arms," he added.

Officials said the dead militants were loyal to a pro-Taleban rebel cleric, Maulana Fazlullah.

An army statement said militants fired six mortar rounds on Wednesday at the airport near Mingora, the region's main town, killing two troops and injuring five more.

Ringed by mountains, the Swat Valley is a scenic area traditionally popular with tourists, but has been overrun by militants in recent times.

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