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15 killed in clash with forces in Pak

Islamabad: At least 15 people, including members of an anti-Taliban militia, were killed today in a clash between security forces and heavily-armed militants in the restive Khyber tribal region of northwest Pakistan.

The clash began when militants attacked a check post jointly manned by security forces and volunteers of an anti-Taliban militia in Bara area of Khyber tribal agency.

The militants used heavy weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades, to target the check post, TV channels reported.

Five members of the pro-government militia were killed instantly and several others were injured.

Hundreds of tribesmen rushed to the check post and launched a counter-attack that killed 10 militants.

There were reports that a security personnel too was killed but this could not be independently confirmed.

Reports said both sides exchanged fire for several hours and some of the militants fled after the tribal volunteers put up strong resistance.

More security personnel were sent to the area and they launched a search operation to trace the militants.

There was no report of any arrests.

The banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Islam are currently active in Khyber and frequently attack security forces and pro-government tribesmen.

In the past, militant groups have carried out deadly attacks on tribesmen in Khyber, a key route for transporting supplies to NATO forces in neighbouring Afghanistan.

NATO supply trucks and oil tankers routinely come under attack in Khyber Agency.

A Taliban suicide bomber attacked worshippers at a mosque in the region last month and killed nearly 60 people.

The Taliban said they attacked the mosque as people in the area had formed a `lashkar` or private militia against them.

Tribesmen have formed militias in the tribal belt and other militant-infested areas in northwest Pakistan to defend themselves from Taliban attacks.

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