October 22, 2008 / 3:13 AM / 11 years ago

Militants kill 15 Pakistani soldiers in Swat

MINGORA, Pakistan (Reuters) - At least fifteen Pakistani paramilitary soldiers and five Islamist militants have been killed in a clash in the northwestern Swat Valley, police said on Wednesday.

The fighting broke out on Tuesday in Kabal area, a stronghold of Pakistani Taliban fighters, after a roadside bomb blast aimed at a paramilitary convoy.

“After the exchange of fire that lasted for several hours, more than 20 troops went missing but today we found 15 dead bodies at the site,” Noor Rehman, a police officer in Kabal, told Reuters.

He said six troops were still missing.

A military spokesman in Swat also confirmed the incident and said security forces had foiled a suicide attack on Tuesday and destroyed a explosive-laden vehicle in the area.

For the past year security forces have been fighting loyalists of pro-Taliban cleric Mullah Fazlullah, who has led a violent campaign to impose Taliban-style law in Swat, a mountain valley once popular with tourists.

Pakistan launched a military offensive in August against militants in the nearby Bajaur tribal region, bordering Afghanistan.

Pakistani tribal lands are regarded as safe havens for al Qaeda and Taliban fighters. Violence has surged in these regions since 2007, and the number of U.S. missile strikes by pilotless drone aircraft against militant targets have multiplied in recent months.

Reporting by Junaid Khan; Writing by Kamran Haider; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani

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