Pakistan Forces Kill 40 Insurgents, Destroy 4 Militant Bases

Government forces destroyed four militant bases and killed 40 insurgents Tuesday in battles near Pakistan's famed Khyber Pass, the main route for supplies to U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, authorities said.

The offensive follows a suicide attack in the region last week that killed 19 police officers at the main border crossing.

Tariq Hayat, the top administrator in Khyber, said 40 militants were killed and 43 arrested. The four destroyed bases belonged to the militant group Lashkar-e-Islam, he said.

The death toll could not be independently verified.

Hayat gave no indication of whether a sustained operation was planned in the area, through which scores of trucks carrying fuel and other goods to U.S and NATO troops in Afghanistan travel each day. The convoys are often targeted.

Pakistan is under intense U.S. pressure to crack down on militants close to the Afghan border, a lawless region where al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is believed to be hiding out. The Taliban there also help mount attacks against Western troops across the frontier.

Elsewhere in the northwest, the army claimed 105 Pakistani Taliban fighters had surrendered in the Swat Valley. Eight were close aides to Swat Taliban chief Maulana Fazlullah, said Brig. Salman Akbar, the army commander of Kabal town in the valley.

The Taliban were not immediately available for comment.

The army launched an offensive in Swat in April that the government says was a success, although no insurgent leaders were killed or captured and pockets of resistance remain. On Sunday, a suicide bombing at a police station killed 17 cadets training. The army says it has killed 45 militants in Swat since that attack.

Human rights activists have accused security forces of executing captured militants and dumping their bodies, but the military denies it.