ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Military jets and artillery pounded suspected militants in Pakistan's northwest yesterday, killing a total of 33 fighters, officials said.
Elsewhere in the volatile region, a citizens' militia killed seven suspected militants.
The military has stepped up strikes in the last week on suspected militant bases in Bajur, where violence has spiked again almost five months after the military declared victory after a months-long offensive.
Two local government officials, Iqbal Khan and Nawaz Khan, said bombs dropped from planes on targets in the town of Salarzai killed 13 militants. In nearby Charmang, shelling killed 14 militants, the officials said. The military has attacked targets in Charmang several times in the last week.
Six more militants were said to be killed in an air strike in South Waziristan, the home base of the Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud.
In Upper Dir region, a citizens' militia engaged in a two-hour clash with militants that killed seven and wounded one more, police said.
Ejaz Ahmed, police chief in Upper Dir, said the fighting occurred late Saturday night near the village of Patrak, about four miles east of Dir Khas, the region's main town and district headquarters.
Several civilian militias, known as lashkars, have emerged in Upper Dir since a suicide bombing on a mosque two weeks ago blamed on the Taliban killed 33 people. The militias carry out patrols and have been pursuing remnants of Taliban, who had tried to expand their influence into the area.
Ahmed said scores of militants had been trapped and killed by the militias in several villages, with police cutting off escape routes. The Taliban who were killed Saturday had been trying to flee when they came across the militiamen and opened fire, he said.
"Due to heavy losses, militants have been attempting to escape the area under cover of dark, and last night's incident was one such attempt," Ahmed said. He said no civilians were killed in the fighting.
The report could not immediately be confirmed because of military restrictions on news media access to the area.
Troops continued yesterday to try to clear a road blocked by the Taliban in the South Waziristan tribal area, where shelling and bombing of suspected militant targets have increased and where ground troops have been moving into position since the government announced the military would go after Mehsud.
Two intelligence officials said six suspected militants were killed yesterday in South Waziristan when a military jet pounded their positions minutes after they fired three rockets that missed a military camp.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
South Waziristan is Mehsud's tribal stronghold, a chunk of the remote and rugged mountainous region along Pakistan's northwestern border with Afghanistan where heavily armed tribesmen hold sway and al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders are believed to be hiding.