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Fighting over Pakistani mountaintop kills over 60

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HUSSAIN AFZAL | January 31, 2012 05:46 AM EST | AP

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PARACHINAR, Pakistan — Fighting between soldiers and Taliban militants over a strategic mountaintop in northwestern Pakistan has killed more than 60 people, a government official said Tuesday.

The battle first started a week ago when government troops seized the top of Jogi mountain in the Kurram tribal area from militants, sparking clashes that killed six soldiers and 20 insurgents, said Wajid Khan, a local government administrator.

The militants retaliated Tuesday by attacking the soldiers who were trying to hold the location, touching off another round of fighting that killed 10 troops and more than 30 insurgents, said Khan. The area is home to militants loyal to Pakistani Taliban commander Hakimullah Mehsud.

The military launched an offensive in Kurram in July 2011 and declared victory about a month later, but violence has continued.

A similar process has taken place throughout Pakistan's semiautonomous tribal region along the Afghan border. The military has launched a series of operations against the Pakistani Taliban in the past few years, and has often declared victory only to see fighting flare up again.

The Pakistani Taliban have killed thousands of people throughout the country in suicide bombings and other attacks. The group aims to topple the Pakistani government, partly because of its alliance with the United States.

The militants are allied with the Afghan Taliban, but the latter group has focused its attacks on NATO and Afghan forces inside Afghanistan.

Elsewhere in Pakistan, at least 10 people were gunned down in the past 24 hours in the southern city of Karachi, said Sharfuddin Memon, a security adviser for the government of Sindh province, where Karachi is the capital.

Karachi is Pakistan's largest city and has a long history of political, ethnic and sectarian violence.

The most recent deaths included two granddaughters of Akbar Bugti, a nationalist leader in southwestern Baluchistan province who was killed during a military operation in 2006 ordered by former President Pervez Musharraf. His death has helped fuel a violent insurgency in Baluchistan against the government.

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Associated Press writer Ashraf Khan contributed to this report from Karachi.