KHAR, Pakistan – Dozens of militants from Afghanistan attacked an anti-Taliban militia post in northwest Pakistan for the third day Sunday, sparking fighting that killed one soldier and 20 militants, a Pakistani official said.
In addition to the dead, four soldiers and four militiamen were wounded in Sunday's attack in the Bajur tribal area, said Jahangir Azam Wazir, a local government administrator.
Pakistan has criticized Afghan and U.S.-led coalition forces for not doing enough to stop the rising number of cross-border attacks by Pakistani Taliban militants holed up in the Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan, across the border from Bajur.
That criticism could soften after the coalition killed a senior Pakistan Taliban commander in an airstrike in Kunar on Friday. Mullah Dadullah, was the leader of the Pakistani Taliban in Bajur. He was killed along with 11 others, including his deputy.
Four soldiers, six militiamen and 38 militants died during the cross-border attacks in the Salarzai area of Bajur on Friday and Saturday, Wazir said.
The airstrike that killed Dadullah followed the cross-border attack on Friday, but the NATO coalition said there was no coordination with Pakistan during the attack.
The U.S. and Afghan governments have long criticized Pakistan for failing to prevent militants using sanctuaries inside the country from attacking targets inside Afghanistan. The main focus has been on Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal area, the main militant sanctuary in the country and home to the Haqqani network, considered one of the most dangerous insurgent groups fighting in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan's intelligence agency said Sunday that its operatives have confirmed that the son of the founder of the Haqqani network was killed in Pakistan, even as the Taliban vowed that he was alive and in Afghanistan.
Shafiquallh Tahriri, the spokesman for Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security, said Badruddin Haqqani was killed in an airstrike in Pakistan last week. He did not provide further details, and he would not say on what information the agency's operatives were basing their conclusion or whether they had seen the body.
Tahriri's account is similar to one provided Saturday by a senior Taliban leader who said Haqqani was killed in a drone strike. It also is close to a version provided by Pakistani officials who said they were 90 percent sure the militant commander was killed Tuesday in a missile strike in North Waziristan.
The U.S. said recently it expects Pakistan to launch an operation soon against the Pakistani Taliban in North Waziristan. But analysts doubt they will target the Haqqani network and other militants fighting in Afghanistan because they are not seen as much of a threat to Pakistan. Islamabad also has historical ties with the Haqqani network, and many analysts believe it is seen as an important potential ally in Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw.
Pakistani military officials have said privately that they plan to increase the pressure against militants in North Waziristan slowly, not conduct a sweeping offensive as they have done in the other parts of the tribal region.
Hundreds of tribal elders, religious leaders and militants held a meeting in North Waziristan on Saturday and called on Pakistan not to launch a military operation, one of the participants said Sunday.
The group cited a nonaggression pact it says the army has with the most powerful local militant leader in the North Waziristan tribal area, Hafiz Gul Bahadur, said Malik Nasrullah Khan, a tribal elder who attended the meeting. Commanders loyal to Bahadur were present at the meeting in Eidak town, he said.
Like the Haqqani network, authorities see Bahadur as less of a threat because he has focused attacks in Afghanistan, not Pakistan. The military has never officially acknowledged having a nonaggression pact with him.
Associated Press writers Rahim Faiez and Heidi Vogt in Kabul, Afghanistan, contributed to this report.