Pakistan: Five Soldiers, 21 Taliban Killed

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PARACHINAR, Pakistan - At least 21 Taliban fighters and five Pakistani soldiers were killed in pre-dawn gun battles near the Afghan border on Friday.

One official claimed that 27 insurgents were killed after they attacked a checkpoint, while the army reported that the fighting occurred when security forces were retaking a checkpoint that was taken over Thursday evening by Taliban gunmen.

Sixty-one people were killed in airstrikes in the same region on Thursday, according to an AP report.

Local officials claimed some of the air strikes targeted a mosque, school and Islamic seminary used by the Tableeghi Jamaat, a nonviolent Islamic missionary group, but military intelligence said the Taliban was meeting there.

Officials believe forces under the command of Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud operate out of Orakzai. Mehsud was reportedly killed by an air strike in January, but the Taliban have denied his death.

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AP contributed to this report.

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