7 militants killed in Pak operation

Islamabad:  Pakistani troops killed seven militants in the lawless tribal belt while rebels blew up an election office of a candidate and a state-run school, with the spike in violence adding to security concerns ahead of next month's national polls.

Soldiers killed seven militants during an ongoing operation in Tirah Valley of the restive Khyber Agency, said a statement issued by the militarys media arm.

Troops also destroyed two militant hideouts and captured two key areas from the rebels.

Nearly 40 soldiers and over 110 militants have died so far in fighting in Khyber Agency, according to media reports.

The army has confirmed the death of 23 soldiers. In Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan Agency, militants blew up the election office of an independent candidate though no one was injured in the attack.

The region is considered a safe haven for Taliban and Al Qaeda elements.

The election office was blown up at 5 am, officials in Miranshah said. An adjacent mosque was damaged by the blast.

The election office was set up by a candidate who had supported the outgoing government led by the Pakistan People's Party.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack though the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan has warned it will attack the PPP, Awami National Party and Muttahida Qaumi Movement in the run-up to the polls.

Militants also blew up a state-run primary school and torched two homes of members of an anti-Taliban militia in Bara area of Khyber Agency.

All educational institutions in Bara were recently closed after curfew was imposed in the area and no one was injured in the attack.

A total of 70 educational institutions have so far been destroyed by militants in Khyber Agency in the past three years.

At Swabi in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, a bomb disposal squad defused a bomb planted outside the guesthouse of former provincial minister Fazl Ali Haqqani, who is a candidate in the upcoming polls.

A passer-by alerted police about the bomb, which contained five kilograms of explosives.

In yet another incident at Mardan in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, militants fired at a police van though there were no reports of casualties.

The policemen were providing security to polio vaccinators. The militants fled after the shooting.
On Thursday, Taliban militants shot dead a candidate for the Muttahida Qaumi Movement in Hyderabad city of Sindh province.

He was the first politician to die during the election campaign.

Today's spike in violence will fuel concerns about security during the May 11 polls to the national and provincial assemblies, which will mark the first democratic transition of power in Pakistan's history.

Story First Published: April 14, 2013 08:51 IST

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