Pakistan attacks kill up to 30 militants

Pakistani forces killed up to 30 militants close to the Afghan border today as the region’s chief minister told a top US diplomat he wanted to resolve problems there through dialogue.

US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher travelled to the city of Peshawar to meet North West Frontier Province chief Amir Haider Khan Hoti, according to a statement from Mr Hoti.

Mr Boucher’s trip comes amid strains between Pakistan and the US over suspected American missile attacks on militant targets on the Pakistan side of the border.

Washington wants Pakistan’s government to do more to fight al Qaida and Taliban fighters based there for increasing attacks on US troops in Afghanistan and targets within Pakistan.

Mr Hoti told Mr Boucher that the provincial government wants to “resolve all political problems through peaceful dialogue, but there wouldn’t be any compromise on maintaining the writ of the government,” the statement said.

Pakistani soldiers are battling militants on three fronts in the north-west of the country. In the past, the government tried unsuccessfully to make peace deals with the insurgents, drawing criticism from the US.

The US Embassy gave no details on Mr Boucher’s trip other than to say it had been planned for some time and that he was meeting a range of government officials.

In the latest fighting in the border area, Pakistani fighter jets bombed insurgents, killing up to 20, army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said.

The bombs hit an ammunition dump, causing extensive damage, he said.

In nearby Bajur district, seven more insurgents were killed when jets bombed their positions, said Muhammad Jamil Khan, the No 2 government official there.

Security official Fazl Rabi said three militants were killed in other parts of Bajur when they tried to attack security posts.

It was not immediately possible to independently confirm the casualties. Reporters cannot visit the area because of poor security and government restrictions, and no Taliban spokesman was available for comment.

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