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Pakistan Police Kill Five Militants In Karachi

KARACHI (Reuters) -- Pakistani police killed five suspected Islamist militants in a gunfight in Karachi on June 27 in escalating violence in the country as the army prepares to intensify its action against the Taliban in the northwest.

The shootout broke out after police raided a militant hideout in the western district of the teeming city of 16 million people.

"We raided the house on a tip-off that militants were planning attacks in the city," Karachi police chief Waseem Ahmed told Reuters.

"As we reached near the house, they opened fire. Our force returned the fire and five militants were killed."

Ahmed said the militants were loyal to Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud.

Fears have been growing over the past few months that Taliban fleeing the northwest are infiltrating into Karachi, the country's biggest city and commercial capital.

The Pakistani military is nearing the end of its anti-Taliban operation in the northwestern Swat valley, launched in early May, and is preparing to mount an all-out assault on Mehsud's powerbase in the South Waziristan tribal region on the Afghan border.

The army launched its offensive in the northwest after Taliban gains raised fears for U.S. ally Pakistan's future and worry about the safety of its nuclear arsenal.

The military has been launching air strikes on Mehsud's bases this month while soldiers have been securing main roads and sealing off his stronghold.

Mehsud is a close Al-Qaeda ally and his followers have responded with a campaign of attacks, including suicide blasts, across the country.

Two soldiers were killed and three wounded in the first suicide bombing in Pakistani Kashmir on June 26 while three people, including two soldiers, were killed in two bomb blasts in North Waziristan, another major militant sanctuary on the Afghan border.