MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (AFP) – Pakistani authorities on Tuesday recovered the bodies of 15 soldiers killed in clashes with pro-Taliban militants in a tribal area bordering Afghanistan, officials said.The troopers were reported to have died on Monday in fierce clashes with the Islamist rebels at a military checkpost in North Waziristan, where the United States says Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are regrouping.
“The bodies of 15 soldiers have been recovered from Shawal area in North Waziristan while one soldier is missing. Two injured soldiers have been rescued,” a security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
A tribal elder who helped authorities bring back the bodies to Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan, said that the soldiers’ bodies had been left lying in a forest and were in “very bad shape.”
The militants had earlier refused to hand over the bodies to the army but later agreed to leave them for collection on the intervention of a council of tribal chiefs, he said.
Clashes erupted in the region when militants attacked troop positions with rockets late Sunday, killing two soldiers and injuring another five, while soldiers retaliated and killed about 16 militants.
Separately four Pakistani soldiers were injured early Tuesday when militants fired rockets at their camp in Datta Khel village in North Waziristan, the security official said.
Residents said gunship helicopters hovered in the sky periodically but they did not hear any firing.
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, a key US ally, has come under increasing pressure from Washington to crush Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters who fled to the tribal areas after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001.