Militants ambushed troops on a dusty road in a volatile tribal region of Pakistan, triggering an intense firefight that killed at least nine attackers and four soldiers, two officials said on Thursday.

The clash took place on Wednesday in the stronghold of a senior Taliban commander, Waliur Rehman, in the South Waziristan tribal region near the Afghan border. Troops backed by helicopter gunships targeted militant hide-outs in the region, an intelligence official and an army officer said.

The officials, who spoke on Thursday on condition of anonymity, provided no further details of the fighting, but said troops were still hunting for the attackers. The incident came two days after two Taliban commanders acknowledged their chief, Baitullah Mehsud, died following an Aug. 5 U.S. missile strike in the North Waziristan tribal region.

Taliban members say they selected Hakimullah Mehsud as the group’s new leader, while Rehman was appointed Taliban leader in South Waziristan, where most of the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan’s fighters -- believed to number as many as 25,000 -- are based.

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