Pakistan fighting kills ’50 militants’, four soldiers


KHAR – Pakistani officials said Friday that 50 militants and four soldiers had been killed in a district where the United States this week criticised the army’s efforts to defeat insurgents.
The deaths, which could not be verified independently, were reported in Mohmand, tribal belt on the Afghan border singled out for criticism in a White House report flatly rejected by Islamabad.
Local administration official Maqsood Hassan told AFP that militants attacked a security force patrol in the Baizai area of Mohmand, triggering an exchange of fire on Thursday.
“Four soldiers and 10 militants were killed in the attack, which was repulsed,” Hassan said.
A separate air offensive targeting militant hideouts in different areas of Mohmand killed 40 rebels on Thursday, Hassan said.
Troops used fighter jets and helicopters to pound rebel positions, he said.
Local official Zabit Khan confirmed the incidents and casualties.
Journalists and aid workers do not have independent access to the battlefield, so the deaths could not be confirmed independently.
The United States has branded the northwestern tribal area, which lies outside Pakistani government control, a global headquarters of Al-Qaeda and one of the most dangerous places on Earth.
A White House report on Tuesday noted a deterioration in area this year and said Pakistan still had no clear path to triumph over insurgents.
It drew attention to Mohmand, where for a third time in two years troops are attempting to clear insurgent strongholds, saying operations had been hampered by resistance, poor weather, refugees and bomb caches.
Pakistan on Thursday rejected the report as “unwarranted” and said it would not be held accountable for US-led failures in Afghanistan, where American troops are leading a 10-year war against the Taliban.
Pakistan argues that its troops are already dangerously overstretched. With an estimated 147,000 forces in the northwest — more than the number of US led foreign troops in Afghanistan — the army has also endured heavy losses.