April 22, 2010 / 3:13 PM / 10 years ago

Pakistani troops kill 20 Taliban in Orakzai

KALAYA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistan security forces, backed by tanks and artillery, killed at least 20 Taliban militants in a clash in the northwestern region of Orakzai on Thursday, a government official said.

The latest fighting broke out when militants attacked a patrol in a village near the border with Khyber agency, Mohammad Nauman, a government official in Orakzai’s main town of Kalaya, told Reuters.

“It was a fierce clash that lasted for about three hours and the militant attack was repulsed,” he said.

In all, 20 militants and one soldier were killed in the fighting, he said. There was no independent confirmation of the deaths. Pakistani Taliban often dismiss military estimates of their casualties.

Pakistan has recently accelerated its military operation in Orakzai and neighboring Khyber regions to root out militants who fled similar assaults in other parts of the northwest.

The United Nations said the operation has displaced 200,000 people in recent months. About 1.3 million have already been displaced.

Pakistan’s action against its homegrown militants is seen as vital to U.S. effort to stabilize neighboring Afghanistan.

According to military officials, the offensive in Orakzai has killed about 300 militants.

Reporting by Hassan Mahmood; Writing by Kamran Haider; Editing by Chris Allbritton and Sanjeev Miglani

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