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Jul 12, 8:27 AM EDT

Militants attack near Pakistan border, killing 3


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KHAR, Pakistan (AP) -- Militants killed a Pakistan army captain and two soldiers in an attack early Saturday in a tribal region near its border with Afghanistan, authorities said, as an airstrike killed 13 suspected extremist fighters.

A group of some 60 militants who crossed over from Afghanistan attacked an army post in the Ghakhi area of the Bajur tribal region, said Shah Nasim, a senior government administrator in Bajur.

He said another soldier and a civilian cook were injured in the attack, which took place when troops had a pre-dawn Ramadan meal before fasting. A later statement from the Pakistani army, however, said the militants attacked a vehicle killing the two, not an army post. The conflicting accounts could not be immediately reconciled.

Khan said the attackers later escaped to Afghanistan's Kunar province but a retaliatory attack injured some of them.

Pakistan's army largely has cleared the Bajur tribal region of militants but its posts often come under cross-border attacks. In June, militants killed 20 soldiers in three attacks. Pakistani troops killed some 50 attackers in retaliatory attacks.

Pakistan has asked Afghanistan's government to take action against the Pakistani militants who escaped a recent military offensive in the Swat Valley and elsewhere for safe havens in eastern Afghanistan.

In a separate statement, the military said it killed 13 suspected militants Saturday in latest airstrikes targeting Mir Ali, a town in the North Waziristan tribal region, where the military last month launched a major operation against militants there. It said the strikes also destroyed seven militant hideouts. The military's claim could not be independently verified as reporters are not allowed to work due to the offensive.

Pakistan army launched its operation against Pakistani Taliban and foreign militants in North Waziristan on June 15.

The military says so far it has killed more than 400 terrorists, though activists and locals say civilians also have been killed.

Since the start of the operation, more than 800,000 people have fled the region, raising fears of a humanitarian crisis.

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Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.

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