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Dozens killed in Taliban-lashkar clash in Tirah

28 January, 2013

PESHAWAR: Fighting between two militant groups has left dozens of rebels dead in part of restive Khyber tribal belt along the Afghan border, officials said on Sunday.

The violence began in Tirah valley in the Khyber tribal region three days ago after members of the Tariq faction of the Pakistani Taliban, who operate in Khyber, captured a building belonging to the pro-government group Ansar-ul-Islam.

"The Ansar-ul-Islam group re-took their centre after intense fighting, which according to our information has so far killed 30-40 militants on both sides," a senior local administration official told AFP. A senior security official confirmed the approximate death toll and said fighting was ongoing. The area is cut off to journalists and aid workers so it was not possible to confirm the death toll independently.

The administration official said Ansar-ul-Islam are led by local commander Munsif Khan and oppose the home grown Islamist militia Lashkar-e-Islam, who frequently clash with Pakistani troops. A media report says the TTP militants are looking for safe hideouts in the area but the Ansarul Islam, which is a local organisation, does not want to give space to the former's members.

The remote valley, tucked in mountainous terrain, is highly valued by militant groups as a base of operations. It's difficult for the Pakistani military to enter the area, which allows militants easy access to Afghanistan and other tribal areas of Pakistan.

End.

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