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Pakistani army says airstrikes, troops kill 39 militants


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ISLAMABAD (AP) -- Pakistani warplanes and ground forces killed 39 militants as part of an ongoing operation in a volatile tribal region near the Afghan border, the Pakistani military said.

The airstrikes were carried out Friday evening in the Datta Khel area of the North Waziristan tribal region, an army statement said Saturday, adding that an underground tunnel system and a large underground cache of weapons and ammunition were also destroyed.

The military claimed several important militant commanders were among the dead, but didn't provide further details on the identities of the slain militants.

Also late Friday night, Pakistani troops ambushed a large assembly of militants on the border between the Orakzai and Khyber tribal regions, the statement said.

It said an intense battle took place in which 16 militants were killed and another 20 injured. Four army soldiers were also injured in the shootout, the statement said.

Journalists are barred from the region and it is impossible to independently verify the information.

The army says it has killed over 1,200 militants since the start of a massive offensive launched June 15 against militants in North Waziristan. The military offensive was launched after a terrorist attack on Pakistan's largest airport in Karachi.

The North Waziristan tribal region is one of seven tribal regions near the Afghan border where local and foreign militants have found safe haven for years. A parallel government offensive is taking place in the neighboring Khyber tribal region to pursue militants fleeing the North Waziristan offensive.

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Associated Press Writer Riaz Khan contributed to this report from Peshawar, Pakistan.

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