Pakistani soldiers battled militants in a tribal region close to the Afghan border Sunday, killing seven insurgents but losing two of their own in skirmishes in an area where Al Qaeda and the Taliban have long sought sanctuary, officials said.

The fighting overnight in the Kurram tribal region comes amid an offensive by 30,000 Pakistani troops in nearby South Waziristan.

Troops moved into two areas in Kurram on Saturday and engaged in fierce battles that killed 15 Taliban militants and three soldiers, three officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Seven militants and two troops died as fighting raged overnight, they said.

People began fleeing the area Sunday after security forces urged villagers to leave, the officials said.

The U.S. has long pushed Pakistan to retake spots along the border with Afghanistan that have become safe havens for militants. That pressure is likely to intensify now that 30,000 additional U.S. troops are heading to Afghanistan to take on a resurgent Afghan Taliban.

The army launched a ground offensive in South Waziristan in mid-October. The operation prompted a slew of retaliatory militant attacks nationwide that have killed more than 500 people.