Two soldiers, 40 militants killed in Pakistan clashes

The fighting took place in the Orakzai tribal district, where  government forces are carrying out an offensive against Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters. "The terrorists first fired rockets on the security checkpost in the Dabori area, and then over 150 of them conducted an organised ground attack," a senior official of the paramilitary Frontier Corps said, adding that the attack was repulsed.

Two soldiers were killed and 21 injured, said the official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. After the raid, the troops, backed by tanks and helicopter gunships, chased the militants back to their hideouts in the mountains, the official said. "Between 35 and 40 militants died while 20 to 30 were wounded," the official added.

An intelligence official who also requested anonymity put the death toll on the Taliban side at more than 50 and around 40 injured. The figures could not be independently verified because access to the region is limited for reporters and aid workers. More than 150,000 Pakistani troops are fighting Islamist insurgents in the country's lawless, rugged tribal region and the adjoining north-western Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

According to official data, hundreds of militants have died in a series of operations that have won praise from authorities in Washington concerned over increasing militant infiltration from Pakistan into Afghanistan.

But the rebels have shown resilience and retaliated with a bombing campaign targeting civilians and officials across Pakistan. A bomb attached to a bicycle exploded near a police van on Tuesday, killing a senior police officer and his two guards in Dera Ismail Khan, a district in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Nine civilians also died.

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