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Posted: 8/14/2007 1:00:33 PM EDT
Pro-Taliban militants killed in Pakistan attack
Mon Aug 13, 2:00 AM ET

Pakistani security forces killed three pro-Taliban militants on Monday in a tribal region near the Afghan border where troops were trying to rescue 16 paramilitary soldiers kidnapped last week, officials said.

The troops killed the militants after the insurgents launched a pre-dawn attack on two military checkpoints in South Waziristan, a hotbed of support for al Qaeda and the Taliban.

"The gun battle that started at around 2 a.m. (5 p.m. EDT) continued for two hours and, according to my reports, three militants have been killed," military spokesman Major-General Waheed Arshad said.

There were no reports of any Pakistani soldiers being wounded in the attacks.

Intelligence officials said there were at least two overnight militant attacks on military checkposts in neighboring North Waziristan that wounded two paramilitary soldiers, but Arshad said he had no knowledge about them.

Arshad said security forces were still trying to ensure the safe return of the 16 "missing" soldiers in South Waziristan. But the military has refused to say if they were kidnapped.

However, officials in the region said they were held by militants who on Sunday demanded the release of 10 colleagues in return for the captive soldiers.

The men went missing while returning to their base near Wana, the main town in South Waziristan.

The Waziristan region has long been regarded as a safe haven for al Qaeda and Taliban militants sheltered by their local Pashtun allies.

Clashes between security forces and militants have intensified in this border region since a 10-month-old peace pact broke down in North Waziristan last month.

Militants have carried out a series of attacks, sometimes using suicide bombers, in Waziristan and elsewhere in North West Frontier Province.

More than 200 people have been killed in bomb attacks and clashes between militants and security forces since the army's assault on a pro-Taliban mosque in the capital Islamabad in July.

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