Pakistani Forces Battle Taliban on Sunday

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PESHAWAR - In an hours-long battle that began Sunday afternoon and lasted until midnight, Pakistani forces killed 15 Taliban terrorists following an attack on a military post and convoy in the northwest region.

"The Taliban first attacked our checkpoint and convoy and then we responded with ground and air attacks," Pakistani official Bajaur Abdul Malik told Reuters.

Malik said 10 Taliban and one soldier died in the fighting, and 10 Taliban gunmen were wounded.

Pakistan has continued to escalate its offense against Taliban forces entrenched along the northwestern border with Afghanistan, especially in Bajaur, a Pashtun tribal region.

The Taliban is still denying a report that its leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, died of wounds sustained in a U.S. drone attack on Jan. 17. According to the report, which the Pakistani and U.S. army and government officials are investigating, Mehsud succumbed to his injuries and was buried in the Orakzai tribal region.

If Mehsud perished, he would be the second senior Pakistani Taliban official killed in a U.S. drone attack. In August, the group's founder, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed in a missile attack.

Meanwhile on Saturday, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden vehicle close to a security checkpoint near the town of Khar in Bajaur, killing 14 people.

The Bajaur region, which faces eastern Afghanistan's Kunar province, is a known crossing point for Pakistani Taliban seeking to join fellow insurgents in the fight against U.S.-led forces there.

U.S. drone strikes on Taliban and al-Qaeda enclaves along the Pakistani-Afghan border have increased since the December 30 suicide bombing that killed seven CIA employees in eastern Afghanistan's Khost province.

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Source: Reuters news agency

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