Over 200,000 flee military offensive in Pakistan

More than 300 suspected militants have been killed since March, officials say

Published April 12, 2010 12:52PM (EDT)

The United Nations says more than 200,000 people have fled a recent military offensive against Taliban militants in northwestern Pakistan.

The military has intensified operations in the Orakzai tribal region in the last few weeks with constant airstrikes and occasional ground battles against the militants. Officials say more than 300 suspected insurgents have been killed since mid-March.

The U.N. said Monday that almost 210,000 have fled Orakzai since the fighting first started at the end of last year. Nearly 50,000 people have fled in the last month alone.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

PARACHINAR, Pakistan (AP) -- More than 100 militants armed with rockets and automatic weapons attacked two security checkpoints in northwestern Pakistan on Monday, sparking intense fighting that left at least 41 insurgents and two soldiers dead, officials said.

The clashes were the latest violence in the Orakzai tribal region, where the military launched an operation in March to rout Pakistani Taliban fighters who have fled there to escape other offensives. Officials say more than 300 suspected militants have been killed in three weeks of constant airstrikes and occasional ground clashes.

The U.S. has applauded Pakistan's push to go after militants in the volatile border area near Afghanistan. But American officials would like the country to do more to target those fighters who have been staging cross-border attacks against U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan.

Security forces successfully repelled the attacks early Monday morning against checkpoints in the villages of Shireen Dara and Sangrana in Lower Orakzai, local administrator Samiullah Khan said. Two soldiers were killed and three wounded in the fighting, he said.

"More than 100 militants attacked the security checkpoint in Shireen Dara," Khan said. "They fought a gunbattle for two hours and fired several rockets."

After the battles subsided, authorities found the bodies of 15 dead militants around the two checkpoints, said two intelligence officials. Insurgents removed the bodies of at least 26 others who were killed, they said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Fighter jets destroyed three militant hide-outs in Sangram village in Orakzai on Sunday, killing 10 suspected insurgents, Khan said. A day earlier, similar strikes killed nearly 100 suspected militants in the Orakzai and Khyber tribal areas, according to officials.

Government reports are almost impossible to independently verify because journalists are prohibited from traveling to the country's semiautonomous tribal areas.

By Associated Press

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Al-qaida Pakistan Taliban United Nations