Pakistan forces raze 4 insurgent bases

By Associated Press
September 2, 2009

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PESHAWAR, Pakistan - Government forces destroyed four militant bases and killed 40 insurgents yesterday in a new offensive near Pakistan’s Khyber Pass, the main route for supplies to US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, authorities said.

The offensive follows a suicide blast in the region last week that killed 19 police officers at a key border crossing.

Tariq Hayat, the top administrator in Khyber, said 40 militants were killed and 43 arrested. The four destroyed bases belonged to the militant group Lashkar-e-Islam, he said. The death toll could not be independently verified.

The military paraded the detainees - blindfolded with their own shirts and hands tied - at Hayat’s press briefing in Peshawar.

An AP photographer saw a handicapped man among the suspects who was carried in by a soldier from a military truck.

A truck loaded with the bodies of militants was seen outside the briefing, where captured weapons, including rocket launchers and assault rifles, were displayed.

Hayat gave no indication of whether a sustained operation was planned in the area, through which scores of trucks carrying fuel and other goods to US and NATO troops in Afghanistan travel each day. The convoys are often targeted.

Pakistan is under intense US pressure to crack down on militants close to the Afghan border, a lawless region where Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is believed to be hiding.