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Pak army control Taliban stronghold: military

November 03, 2009 19:56 IST

The Pakistani military on Tuesday claimed to have wrested the Taliban stronghold of Sararogha in South Waziristan, where 21 militants and a soldier were killed in fierce clashes over the past 24 hours.

Soldiers had "commenced the sanitisation of Sararogha" and several improvised explosive devices had been neutralised, the military said.

Sixteen militants and a soldier were killed in clashes around Sararogha, where the army believes the main Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan leaders are holed up.

A soldier was injured in a mine blast and two suspects were captured in the same area, the military said.

Five militants were killed in clashes around the militant stronghold of Kaniguram, which was recently captured by troops.

After securing Kaniguram, troops had launched search and clearance operations in nearby areas.

Security forces also took hold of adjoining heights though they continued to be targeted by the militants.

The Taliban fired six rockets at Kaniguram but there were no reports of casualties.

Troops advancing from Razmak in North Waziristan to the militant base of Makeen secured several areas held by the Taliban, including China village and Mian Nur Khel.

The militants targeted troops in check posts near Razmak with small arms and rockets though there were no reports of casualties, the military said.

The Taliban, however, has denied that the military had won a series of victories in the stepped up offensive in the tribal region as they claimed the militants are drawing the troops into a trap.

Meanwhile, a soldier was injured while neutralising an IED planted near a bridge in this region.

Pakistan has mobilised over 30,000 soldiers to flush out an estimated 10,000 Taliban militants and foreign fighters from South Waziristan.

The military says over 340 militants and about 36 soldiers have died so far in fighting though the figures cannot be independently verified as journalists have no access to the conflict zone.

Troops also continued search and clearance operations in the northwestern Swat valley, where 21 suspects were captured from different areas.

Ten militants also surrendered to security forces in this region.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said there was no need to respond to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's remark that Pakistan had given no evidence of

India's alleged interference in the country.

He was responding to a point of order raised by opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Ahsan Iqbal in the national assembly or lower house of parliament.
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