Militants ambushed Pakistani security forces at checkpoints near the Afghan border on Saturday, sparking gun-battles that left 22 insurgents and two troops dead, officials said.
Government officials Mohammad Yasin and Mohammad Naseem said two more troops were wounded in the clashes in the Orakzai and Kurram tribal regions. They said a search and clearance operation launched after the clashes also seized 25 suspected insurgents.
Many militants fleeing a Pakistani military offensive in the Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan have ended up in the two regions, where they often target government forces.
Washington has welcomed the military campaign but is pushing the Pakistani army to do more to target the Taliban blamed for violence across the border in Afghanistan. The Pakistani army has said it is too taxed to launch another operation right now.
“We have gone in Orakzai and Kurram because they were affecting our operations in South Waziristan,” Pakistani army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas told DawnNews TV on Friday night. “We are too thin on the ground. We are too over stretched. It is not possible to get into any other area for operations.”
The army deployed some 30,000 troops against the Pakistani Taliban in South Waziristan in mid-October and has retaken many towns in the region. But many fear the militants have just set up in other parts of the vast, lawless border regions and will continue to threaten the Pakistani government and U.S. troops in Afghanistan.