22 killed in clashes between the army and militants in Bajaur Agency

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A total of 22 people, including 17 members of a pro-Taliban militia and one soldier lost their lives in a clash, which occurred in the Northwest. The clash occurred in the Mamound Tehsil of the Bajaur Agency, which is a part of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. According to local sources, close to 150 militants crossed the Pak-Afghan border from the Afghan province of Kunar, and attacked two of the villages in the Mamound region.

An official from the Pakistani Army claimed that the soldiers, with the support of the local militia (Mamond Qaumi Lashkar) were able to repel both the attacks. Four members of the Mamond Qaumi Lashkar were killed and several others injured during the clashs. There are unconfirmed reports that several of the villagers are missing after the attack, and the militants are suspected of taking them hostage.

After the counter-attack by the army, the militants fled back to their hideouts in Kunar. The attack took place in the villages of Barkatkot and Kitkot, located near the border. The villagers claimed that the attack was more intense than the former incidents, with the rebels using rockets, grenades and mortars this time.

Immediately after the incident, the Pakistani Army send in re-enforcements to the area, but they were unable to intercept the militants before they crossed back to Afghanistan. A few hours later, helicopter gunships of the Pakistani Air Force (PAF) bombed suspected rebel hide-outs along the Afghan-Pak border in Bajaur. The army also conducted a search operation in the area after the attack, but were not successful in finding rebel facilities.

Meanwhile the tribal leaders in Bajaur are reported to be angry over the cross border attack. Some of the elders warned their counterparts in Afghanistan that any further attack on the civilians in Bajaur will invite retaliatory measures from the local tribes. The local militia, Mamond Qaumi Lashkar is composed of tribesmen from the Bajaur region.

The latest attacks are believed to be conducted by a pro-Taliban militia group, which was expelled from Bajaur and Malakand recently by the army operations there. Meanwhile the militants holed up in Kunar agreed to hand over the bodies of 19 Pakistani servicemen to the Army, after local elders held talks with them. The servicemen were killed during an ambush on June 28.

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