ISLAMABAD — The Taliban attacked several military posts in northwestern Pakistan after crossing over from neighboring Afghanistan today, killing one soldier and triggering an hours-long gunbattle that left 16 militants dead, Pakistani officials said.
The fighting was the latest cross-border attack along the volatile and porous Pakistan-Afghanistan boundary. Two Pakistani officers said the local Pakistani Taliban branch was behind the attack and that dozens of fighters from the group had sneaked overnight into Pakistan to stage the attack.
The insurgents hit at least two military checkpoints in the northwestern tribal region of Bajur, killing one soldier and wounding two others, local government official Shah Naseem said.
Naseem said the attackers were armed with heavy weapons and targeted several military posts in Nao Top border village, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) northwest of Khar, the main town in Bajur.
The army responded, sending helicopter gunships into battle as troops chased the attackers on the ground. Sixteen insurgents were killed, two army officers told The Associated Press.
The attackers then fled toward Afghanistan, the officers said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
The officers said their intelligence confirmed the attack was launched by local Pakistani Taliban fighters — originally from the Bajur tribal region and the northwestern Swat Valley — who have been hiding in the village of Ghund in neighboring Afghanistan’s Kunar province.
Militants from both Pakistan and Afghanistan regularly cross the border and use the neighboring country’s soil as a safe haven before staging attacks back home.
The border area is remote and off limits to reporters, making it difficult to independently confirm information about fighting or military operations in the tribal regions.
The Pakistani Taliban have killed thousands of people in an attempt to impose Islamic law in Pakistan and end the government’s support for the U.S.-led war in neighboring Afghanistan.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has made negotiations with the Taliban a centerpiece of his government. Supporters of the peace talks argue that negotiations are the only way to end the cycle of violence while critics say a deal will only strengthen militant ranks, allow them to regroup and strike back with more force.