Islamabad: Thirty militants and 23 soldiers have been killed during fighting between security forces and pro-Taliban rebels in the lawless Khyber tribal region of Pakistan, according to a media report on Monday.
    
The fighting erupted after troops, including Special Services Group commandoes, launched a "decisive operation" against militants in Tirah Valley of Khyber Agency.
    
Twenty-three soldiers, including commandoes, and an unspecified number of members of a tribal lashkar or militia had died in clashes over the weekend, official sources were quoted as saying on the website of the Dawn newspaper.
    
Around 30 militants had died and scores more injured in the fighting during the weekend. The report said "scores of militants" had died in the offensive launched last week.
    
There was no official word on the latest developments in Khyber Agency. Late last night, at least 10 militants were killed in a clash with security forces in Akka Khel area of Bara sub-division, the report said.
    
On Friday, the media arm of the Frontier Corps had confirmed that four security personnel and 14 militants had died in clashes.
    
The sources said the SSG commandos, regular army troops and Frontier Corps personnel are battling to root out the "last pockets of resistance" in Tirah Valley, especially on the border with Orakzai tribal region. The area was described as a bastion of the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and foreign fighters.
    
The offensive had entered a "crucial phase" after militant positions were targeted by helicopter gunships and jet fighters. Ground troops and members of local militias were clearing the area.
    
Artillery and mortar shelling has been intensified as ground forces had begun advancing and conducting door-to-door searches to clear pockets of resistance.

(Agencies)

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