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ISLAMABAD (AP) — Taliban militants attacked a Pakistani army post near the Afghan border before dawn Wednesday, killing eight soldiers, a reminder of the threat posed by insurgents despite numerous military offensives against them.
The attack occurred in the South Waziristan tribal area, once the main stronghold for the Pakistani Taliban, said a military official. The military launched a large offensive against militants there in 2009, but insurgents still operate in the area and periodically stage attacks.
In addition to the eight soldiers killed, six others were wounded in the attack near Ghatbadr village in the Shakai Valley, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. The attack started around midnight and lasted for several hours, he said.
The attack followed the start of a new army operation to rout militants from the area, said the official. During the operation over the last two days, soldiers killed 18 militants and destroyed seven of their hideouts. Another 21 militants were wounded, according to the official.
The official initially said nine soldiers were killed but later lowered the toll to eight.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on the post. The group's spokesman, Ahsanullah Ahsan, claimed they killed 12 soldiers and beheaded some of them.
The differing accounts could not be independently verified.
The military has conducted offensives against the Pakistani Taliban in six of the seven areas that make up Pakistan's semiautonomous tribal region along the Afghan border.
The U.S. said recently that Pakistan plans to launch an operation against the Pakistani Taliban in the last major militant sanctuary in region, North Waziristan. But Pakistani military officials have downplayed the comments, saying they plan to slowly increase pressure against militants in North Waziristan rather than launch a sweeping offensive.
Many Pakistani Taliban militants fled to North Waziristan and other parts of the tribal region following the army operation in South Waziristan in 2009.