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Page last updated at 17:27 GMT, Tuesday, 1 September 2009 18:27 UK

Pakistan clashes 'kill militants'

Pakistani troops in Mingora (15 August 2009)
Pakistan's military says it is in control in the Swat valley

Pakistan says its troops have killed more than 50 militants in clashes across the north-west.

The authorities said 40 insurgents had been killed in an offensive in Khyber Agency, bordering Afghanistan. Several militant bases were also destroyed.

In fighting in Swat valley 15 militants died, bringing to 45 the number killed there since Friday, the army said. More than 100 others reportedly surrendered.

There is no independent verification of the army's claims.

Journalists have little access to the areas where the clashes are said to have taken place.

Pakistan is under US pressure to crack down on militants in the border region. There have been numerous attacks in Khyber on Nato supply convoys to Afghanistan.

Khyber's top government official Tariq Hayat Khan said 43 militants had been captured, as well as 40 killed in the military operation.

Pakistan map

"It will continue till we achieve our objective and restore the writ of government," he told reporters in Peshawar.

Militants who had been arrested were paraded blindfolded before the news conference.

Army operations have been taking place in the Bara sub-district of Khyber. The entire area is under curfew and access to the media is restricted there.

Troops are targeting the Lashkar-e-Islam group, which has been the subject of several offensives over the past year.

But, correspondents say, the militants' grip over the area has not yet been broken.

Last week, 22 border guards were killed in a suicide bomb attack at a checkpoint in the Khyber Pass, on Pakistan's border with Afghanistan.

The BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says the recent surge in violence appears to be an attempt by the Taliban to demonstrate their capability to strike in the aftermath of the death of their chief, Baitullah Mehsud.

Analysts expect more attacks from the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan after they failed to cause major disruption to last month's Afghan elections.

'Surrender'

The Swat valley has been the scene of a massive troop offensive since April.

Army spokesman Lt Col Akhtar Abbas told the BBC that 105 Taliban fighters had given themselves up in the Kabal area near Mingora, Swat's main town.

He said that in total 165 suspected militants, including many wanted figures, had now laid down their arms.

The army denies accusations that troops are behind extra-judicial killings in the region. More than 150 dead bodies - some with gunshot wounds, some beheaded - have been found in the past month.

The military recently declared Mingora, Swat's main town, and other parts of the region largely free from Taliban militants.

But on Sunday a suspected suicide bomber killed at least 14 police recruits who were training at a police base in Mingora.



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