Pakistan

Three soldiers among 19 killed in north-west Pakistan violence

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Islamabad_(dpa) _ At least 19 people, including three soldiers and 14 Islamic militants, were killed Tuesday in fresh clashes in restive north-west Pakistan, security officials said.

A roadside bomb targeted a security convoy in Kabal area of troubled valley of Swat in North West Frontier Province (NWFP), leaving at least three law enforcers dead and numerous injured, a local official said.

The official who spoke on condition of anonymity said three vehicles of the security forces were also destroyed in the attack.

The residents said the government forces pounded suspected militants' position following the incident and some stray rounds hit residential area killing at least two civilians and injuring five more.

Pakistani forces are carrying our offensive since October 2007 in Swat valley, formerly a popular tourist destination, against a radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah, whose heavily-armed followers have waged an armed campaign to enforce Taliban rule in the area.

Separately, Pakistani jet planes and helicopter gunships targeted militants' hideouts in neighboring Bajaur tribal district, which is believed to have sanctuaries of al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters launching cross border attacks on US-led international forces in Afghanistan.

"Around a dozen miscreants were also injured in the strikes," said a security official.

The Pakistan army launched an operation in Bajaur in early August this year to retake control over a strategically important hilltop along the route used by militants to provide supplies to their colleagues in Afghan province of Kunar as they fight American forces deployed there.

According to the claims of Pakistani government, more than 1000 Taliban have died in the offensive, but the figures could not be independently verified.

The conflicts in Swat and Bajaur areas have displaced around 400,000 people, who have moved to safer places in NWFP and Afghanistan.

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