Pakistan skirmishes, air strikes: 50 dead
Peshwar - At least 51 militants and four soldiers have been killed in air strikes and clashes with Pakistani security forces in the restive northwest over the past week, officials said on Sunday.
On Sunday, Pakistani planes bombed the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan, killing 26 militants, a senior paramilitary official told AFP.
"Pakistani jet strikes today killed 26 militants and wounded 15 others and destroyed their seven hide outs in different areas of Upper Orakzai and Kurram [tribal districts]," the official said.
Most of Upper Orakzai is in Taliban hands and is the scene of frequent clashes between security forces and Islamist militants.
Separately, at least 25 militants and four soldiers were killed in Bara, a restive town in Khyber tribal district in gunfights between March 12 and Sunday, the official said.
"Four security forces personnel embraced martyrdom and 12 others were wounded in gunfights which left 25 militants dead," he said.
The official also denied that militants from the Bara area had been killed in custody, following reports that bodies of some of those arrested were discovered with signs of torture and bullet wounds.
"No miscreant has been killed in custody and any such report is baseless and devoid of facts," he said.
The military operation was directed at militants belonging to the Taliban-linked Laskhar-e-Islam group that is led by warlord Mangal Bagh, said the official.
The group has been involved in recent suicide attacks and kidnapping in the northwestern city of Peshawar, which borders Khyber, he said.
Two local intelligence officials confirmed the clashes and death toll.
Independent verification of the incident is not possible as access to the area is restricted by the military.
Some 18 000 people fled their homes in Khyber in October last year amid fears of a fresh outbreak of fighting between the army and Islamist militants linked to the Pakistani Taliban.
Pakistan's seven tribal districts near the Afghan border are rife with home grown insurgents and are strongholds of Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives.
Islamist militants have killed more than 4 800 people across Pakistan since government troops raided an extremist mosque in Islamabad in July 2007.