Pakistani troops attack militants holding key tunnel

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Peshawar, Jan 27 : Pakistani troops backed by gunship helicopters and artillery pounded militant positions in Darra Adam Khel in an attempt to take back control of a key road tunnel as the operation continues on the third consecutive day today.

Militants occupied the Japanese-built tunnel in the lawless town of Darra Adam Khel on Friday, blocking traffic between the main city of Peshawar in North West Frontier Province and the city of Kohat.

As the operation entered a third day on Sunday, troops were using artillery, long-range weapons and helicopters to dislodge militants from their bunkers on hills overlooking the tunnel, a military spokesman said.

Residents said hundreds of vehicles were stranded on both sides of the tunnel, with the militants having erected barricades on the road to the tunnel.

"Fighting is going on near Kohat tunnel and troops have purged militants from a large area," Military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said.

Troops had made good progress in their advance, he said, expressing hope that the rebels would be flushed out from the area by Monday and the tunnel would be free for movement.

The unrest started after militants seized four military trucks loaded with ammunition on Thursday.

"They are holding key positions on mountain tops that is why it is taking time," Abbas said, adding security forces suffered no casualties and there were no details of militant losses in the latest clash.

He said 25 militants were killed late on Saturday. On Friday the troops said they had killed 30 rebels and lost two soldiers in Darra Adam Khel, which is known for its weapons bazaar and illegal arms manufacturing factories.

Security officials said Darra Adam Khel had recently become a stronghold of the banned extremist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which is said to have links to al-Qaeda, The News reported.

ANI

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