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Pakistan Says 25 Militants Killed In Border Region Clashes

Taliban loyalists in Pakistan's tribal region
KHAR, Pakistan -- At least 25 pro-Taliban militants and two Pakistani soldiers have died in fierce clashes in a tribal region along the Afghan border, government officials said.

The clashes erupted late on August 6 when militants intercepted a security vehicle in the Loi Sum area in Bajaur, a known sanctuary for Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.

"We have reports of 25 militants. Two paramilitary soldiers were also killed and three wounded," a senior government official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The fighting continued overnight as army helicopter gunships pounded militant hideouts in the mountainous region.

Separately, militants ambushed a security vehicle with a remote-controlled bomb early on August 7 near Khar, the main town of Bajaur, killing two soldiers, officials said, citing an intelligence report.

The security situation across the northwest has deteriorated in recent weeks amid mounting pressure by Western allies on Pakistan to stop militants making cross-border attacks on their troops in Afghanistan.

Violence had subsided in Pakistan's northwest after a new coalition government took office following elections in February and opened talks with the militants through tribal elders.

But the lull seems to be over and militants have stepped up their activities since their top leader Baitullah Mehsud suspended talks in June.