Clashes kill six Pakistan security forces: Officials

PESHAWAR (AFP) - Dozens of militants attacked a Pakistani checkpoint, sparking clashes that killed six security personnel and four militants in the tribal belt overnight, officials said on Tuesday.

The fighting took place in the northwestern Khyber district, where troops are frequently locked in clashes with homegrown Islamist militia Lashkar-e-Islam.

Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants have carved out strongholds in Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal belt to plot attacks on Pakistani, Afghan and Western targets.

"Around 100 militants attacked a Frontier Corps checkpost in the Shalobar area of Bara in Khyber tribal region on Monday night, which triggered a firefight," a security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Officials said four paramilitary soldiers and two tribal policemen were killed, and 16 other personnel were wounded.

The area is cut off to journalists and aid workers so it was not possible to confirm the death toll independently.

A spokesman for Lashkar-e-Islam said it carried out the attack but denied that any of its fighters were killed.

"We took four soldiers hostage as well. There was no loss of life on our side in the clashes," said spokesman Abur Rasheed Lashkari in a text message.

Pakistan came under huge US pressure to do more to destroy militant sanctuaries after US Navy SEALs found and killed Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani military town of Abbottabad on May 2, 2011.

On Sunday 14 Pakistani soldiers were killed and 25 wounded in a roadside bombing in the tribal district of North Waziristan.