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Pakistan Clashes Kill 3 Soldiers, 19 Militants

Islamabad - At least three soldiers and 19 militants were killed in clashes in north-west Pakistan's troubled tribal region along the Afghan border, the military said Friday.

The army launched operations Thursday night to capture strategic heights from militants in the Kurram and Maidan areas of the Khyber tribal district, Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa said.

"All the dominating heights of the area have also been cleared or occupied by the forces," Bajwa said. "During exchange of fire, 19 terrorists were killed while 12 were injured."

"Three soldiers, including an officer, also embraced shahdat (martyrdom) and three were injured."

There was no independent confirmation of the death toll because the region is off-limits to journalists.

Militants are active in both Khyber and Kurram, and the government so far has failed to eliminate them despite being repeatedly targeted by government forces.

The army launched a massive operation last month in Tirah, a remote valley in Khyber, which borders Kurram and Orakzai, and is controlled by Taliban-linked banned group Lashkar-e-Islam.

The army has not officially given a total death toll from the operations, but defence sources said that at least 23 soldiers and more than 110 Taliban rebels were killed in the first week of fierce fighting.

The fighting has displaced nearly 44,000 people from the restive region, according to an official of National Disaster Management Authority.

Also on Friday, one soldier was killed and three injured when a landmine explosion hit their vehicle in the Jani Khel area of north-west Bannu district, a security official said.

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