Seven militants, one security official killed in Pakistan

Suspected Islamic militants ambushed a convoy of security forces in a northwestern tribal region of Pakistan on Tuesday, triggering a shootout that left at least seven militants and one security official dead, intelligence and security officials said. The gunbattle happened near Miran Shah, the main town in North Waziristan tribal region, on a road heading to the town of Razmak , said a local security official.

A local intelligence official said the security forces retaliated after being attacked with gunfire. "I confirm that we have collected seven bodies of the militants," he said. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media. They said the military, backed by helicopter gunships, was still searching the area.

The army spokesman was not immediately available for comment. The attack came hours after gunmen shot dead two tribal policemen late Monday in the main bazaar of Miran Shah before fleeing. Local officials blamed pro-Taliban militants who have stepped up attacks on security forces in this volatile region this year.

A tribal elder, Haq Nawaz, said the attack in Miran Shah happened just after midnight and that the attackers fled toward nearby mountains. Pakistan , a key ally of the United States in its war on terror, has deployed about 80,000 troops in the country's tribal regions bordering Afghanistan in an effort to flush out remnants of al-Qaida, Taliban and their local supporters.

Since January, gunbattles between rebels and security forces, rocket attacks and roadside bombings have left 51 soldiers, six policemen and 324 militants dead, according to an Associated Press tally based on reports from the tribal regions, reports the AP.