A Pakistani soldier is killed in a shootout with militants near Afghanistan border, military says

This is a locator map for Pakistan with its capital, Islamabad, and the Kashmir region. (AP Photo)

ISLAMABAD (AP) — A Pakistani soldier was killed in an overnight shootout with militants in the country's northwest, near the border with Afghanistan, the military said.

A military statement late Saturday said the shootout took place in Mir Ali, a major town of North Waziristan that served as a safe haven for militants for decades. It said the military had been searching for terrorists there.

The shootout took place days after Pakistan closed the key northwestern Torkham border crossing with Afghanistan after border guards from the two sides exchanged fire Wednesday. Clashes that same day in the northwestern Chitral district near the border killed four Pakistani soldiers and 12 militants.

Scores of trucks loaded with goods, many carrying perishable items including vegetables and fruits, were still lined up on both sides of the Torkham border point Sunday, waiting for the crossing to reopen.

Torkham witnessed previous clashes in February and the town remained closed for several days after the two sides accused each other of trying to build new posts along the border.

Ziaul Haq Sarhadi, a senior official of Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry, urged authorities to prioritize solving the border issue as traders stand to lose millions of dollars in perishable goods if Torkham is not opened soon.

Pakistani authorities said they were in talks with the Afghan interim government over the Torkham border clash and increasing cross-border militant attacks.

Caretaker Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani termed the the incident very unfortunate and said Pakist­­an is taking the rise in terrorism very seriously, and it is the responsibility of Afghanistan to stop the atta­cks emerging from their soil.

The Pakistani Taliban, known as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, have intensified their attacks over the past months on Pakistani security forces. They are a separate group but an ally of the Afghan Taliban.

On Sunday, the military said a shootout a day earlier in Ursoon, Chitral, killed seven militants and critically injured another six. It said “sanitization” of the area was being carried out to eliminate any other militants in the area.