Pakistan troops kill 16 militants in north-west: Military

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) - Pakistani troops overran two militant hideouts and killed 16 insurgents after heavy overnight fighting at a flashpoint near the Afghan border in which two soldiers also died, the military said Sunday.

The fighting took place in the wake of a fresh military push in the Tirah valley in the tribal Khyber district, where the military has been targeting Taleban and Lashkar-e-Islam militia who threaten the nearby north-western city of Peshawar.

Khyber straddles the Nato supply line into Afghanistan, used by US-led troops to evacuate military equipment ahead of their 2014 withdrawal, and officials say it is key to protecting security in Peshawar for historic elections next week.

"In a successful operation security forces last night captured Kismat Sur and Sanghar, two strong hideouts of militants in Tirah Valley," the military said in a statement.

"Sixteen militants were killed in the operation. Two security personnel embraced martyrdom and three were wounded," it said.

Independent verification of the death toll was not possible as the area is cut off to journalists and aid workers.

"Militants were seen fleeing from the area, leaving behind a huge cache of arms and ammunition," the statement added.

Separately, a roadside bomb targeting a military convoy on Sunday killed two Pakistani soldiers and wounded three more in another tribal region near the Afghan border, officials said.

The bomb was planted on the road near Razmak, about 45km south of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan, a notorious hub of Taleban and Al-Qaeda linked militants, local security officials said.

A military official in Peshawar confirmed the casualties.

"It went off when a convoy of dozens of vehicles was on its way to the north-western city of Bannu," he said, adding that one vehicle was destroyed.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blast.

Pakistan will elect its new government for the next five years in polls on May 11.

The election of the national and four provincial assemblies will mark the first time a civilian government has completed a full term and handed over to another, in a country that has been ruled by the military for half its existence.

Campaigning has been marred by Taleban threats and attacks, which have killed 66 people since April 11, according to an AFP tally.

Pakistani troops have been fighting for years against homegrown insurgents in the tribal belt, which Washington considers the main hub of Taleban and Al-Qaeda militants plotting attacks on the West and in Afghanistan.