50 Pakistan troops missing in N Waziristan after clashes

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Islamabad, Oct 8 (UNI) Around 50 Pakistani soldiers went missing after gunbattles with Islamic militants in Waziristan area , the army said today.

The soldiers have been out of radio contact since the morning in North Waziristan, a region bordering Afghanistan, Geo TV reports.

''We have reports of around 50 troops missing. They are out of communications and their whereabouts have not been found,'' chief military spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad said.

The soldiers went missing while moving from place to place following fresh clashes near Mir Ali, the second biggest town in North Waziristan, Arshad said.

Earlier, the military said that the death toll from the fierce clashes yesterday in the same region had risen to 60 militants and 20 soldiers.

Troops backed by gunship helicopters launched an assault against militant bases and hideouts in retaliation for attacks on military convoys overnight on Friday.

News of the missing soldiers comes as a fresh blow to the army, with militants already holding more than 200 Pakistani soldiers in another part of the insurgency-plagued ethnic Pashtun tribal belt.

Violence has spiked in the tribal region since Pakistani security forces besieged and then raided the Al-Qaeda-linked Red Mosque in Islamabad in July -- an operation that Osama bin Laden has urged militants to avenge.

Pro-Taliban militants are also holding more than 200 Pakistani soldiers in nearby South Waziristan district after abducting them in late August, apparently without the troops firing a shot.

Three of them have been killed by militants to press their demands for an end to military operations in the tribal areas.

UNI

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