Page last updated at 15:25 GMT, Friday, 26 September 2008 16:25 UK

Pakistan 'kills 1,000 militants'

Pakistani soldiers near border with Afghanistan
Pakistani troops have been battling Taleban fighters near the border

Pakistani troops have killed 1,000 Islamist militants in a huge offensive in the Bajaur tribal district over the last month, the army says.

It says that it will regain control of the region from Taleban and al-Qaeda militants within the next three months.

The army says that five top militants were among those killed in the Bajaur operation. The area is one of the most unstable of Pakistan's tribal areas.

There has been no word from militants in relation to the army's claims.

"This is one area that, if you are controlling, can create a much greater effect on the entire region," Maj-Gen Tariq Khan told reporters on a visit to the area arranged by the army.

He estimated that 65% of the militant problem would be eliminated if militants were defeated in Bajaur.

"If they lose here, they've lost almost everything," he added.

"If we do not take any action it will become an independent agency spreading out terror in all directions."

'Al-Qaeda sanctuary'

Maj-Gen Khan said that 27 soldiers had been killed and 111 wounded in the operation, launched last month at the same time as Pakistan's new government was coming under increasing pressure from the US to take action against militants in its border regions.

Suspected  militants in Bajaur
The army says that many suspected militants have been captured

Correspondents say that there is no way independently to verify the army's claims.

However the BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Pakistan says that troops are barely making progress against militants and thousands of people have been displaced.

Our correspondent says that soldiers in Bajaur are not confronted with guerrilla-type attacks or suicide bombings but a situation of conventional warfare in which the militants continue to hold a large swathe of territory.

Maj-Gen Khan said the dead militant commanders were from Egypt, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. Another was described as an Arab while the fifth was a Pakistani commander named only as Abdullah.

Bajaur is long believed to have been the most likely al-Qaeda sanctuary inside the Pakistani border region, and has been the target of several suspected US missile attacks since 2006.

It borders the troubled Afghan province of Kunar, scene of some of the fiercest fighting between Pakistani forces and Islamist militants since Islamabad joined the US-led "war on terror" in 2001.

It was also the scene of a missile strike that is believed narrowly to have missed Osama bin Laden's number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in January 2006.

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