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Over 50 Militants Killed In Pakistan's Lower Dir

KOTA, Pakistan (Reuters) -- Pakistani troops have killed over 50 militants in two days of fighting in the Lower Dir district, the military said.

The security forces conducted a search and cordon operation in several villages of Lower Dir on July 19 and 20 against militants who had fled a military offensive in the neighboring Swat valley, the military said in a statement issued late on July 20.

"During the operation, over 50 militants were killed and several wounded," according to a statement from the paramilitary Frontier Corps.

The Pakistani military is in the last stages of an operation launched over two months ago in Swat.

The military says it has killed more than 1,700 militants, but critics say few guerrilla leaders have been eliminated. Independent casualty estimates are unavailable.

Violence across northwest Pakistan and the spread of Taliban influence have heightened concerns about insecurity in the nuclear-armed country, a key ally in the West's mission to stabilize Afghanistan and destroy Al-Qaeda.