Dozens of militants armed with assault rifles attacked a security checkpoint in Pakistan's volatile northwest, sparking a gunbattle that left 30 insurgents and one soldier dead, officials said Thursday.
The battle occurred overnight in the Chamarkand area of the Mohmand tribal region near the Afghan border, said government and military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
Chamarkand borders the Bajur tribal region, where the army said Tuesday it had finally defeated Taliban and al-Qaida militants after more than a year and a half of fighting. But the army made a similar declaration of victory in Bajur a year ago only to see violence continue, and officials acknowledged some of the militants may have fled to other areas.
It was unclear if the militants involved in the checkpoint attack came from Bajur.
A similar dynamic occurred when the army staged a massive ground offensive last year in the South Waziristan tribal area, the main stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban. Many of the militants fled to North Waziristan and other areas of the northwest, leading a wave retaliatory attacks that killed more than 600 people.
But there have been relatively few attacks in recent weeks, a possible sign that the military's continued offensive against the militants is having some success.
Maj. Gen. Tariq Khan, the commander of the paramilitary Frontier Corps who announced the army had wrapped up military operations in Bajur, said plans to stage additional offensives in other areas of the tribal region where militants have fled, including Orakzai and Kurram.
Washington has praised Pakistan for its recent military operations but wants the government to do even more to target militants using its territory to stage cross-border attacks against U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan.