PARACHINAR, Pakistan — Taliban fighters attacked a security checkpoint close to the Afghan border, sparking clashes that killed five soldiers and 21 insurgents in a region that has seen heavy fighting in recent days, the army said Friday.
The attack took place Orakzai, a tribal region where the military is pursuing Pakistani Taliban insurgents believed to have fled a major offensive in nearby South Waziristan.
The army said in a statement the clashes started when security forces tried to recapture a checkpoint taken Thursday night by militants in the Kalaya area. It said 21 militants and five security force members, including a senior officer, were killed in the fighting that ended with the military regaining control of the area.
Orakzai is considered a major base for Hakimullah Mehsud, the Pakistani Taliban’s top commander, who is believed to have died in a U.S. missile strike in January. The Taliban have denied his death, but have not shown any evidence he is still alive.
On Thursday, Pakistani fighter jets bombed militant targets elsewhere in Orakzai, killing 61 militants sheltering in a religious seminary, a mosque and a school, according to security officials.
The Pakistani Taliban have been under pressure in their main stronghold, the South Waziristan tribal region, since the army launched its ground offensive there in October. Many insurgents are believed to have scattered to other parts of the tribal belt, which borders Afghanistan in Pakistan’s northwest.
Orakzai and the neighboring tribal area of Kurram have witnessed numerous airstrikes over the past few months. The inaccessibility of the regions makes it very difficult to get independent confirmation of the casualty figures provided by officials and the identity of those killed.