KARACHI, Pakistan 

Two Pakistan Army troops were killed on Saturday in a clash with suspected militants near the country’s northwestern border with neighboring Afghanistan, an official statement said.

The attack — latest one in a string of ambushes on security forces following the kick start of rare direct talks between the Taliban and Kabul government in Qatar’s capital Doha last week — took place near Miranshah, the capital of the restive North Waziristan tribal region.

“Security forces conducted an IBO [intelligence based operation] in Spalga, Miranshah. During exchange of fire, two soldiers embraced shahadat [martyrdom],” said a statement by the Pakistan army’s media wing — the Inter-Services Public Relations.

“Troops cordoned off the area for clearance,” it added.

The attack followed the killing of a key militant commander, Ihsan Ullah, along with his three accomplices in North Waziristan on July 13.

North Waziristan — once dubbed the heartland of militancy — is one of seven former semi-autonomous tribal regions in Pakistan where the army has conducted a series of operations since 2014 to eliminate Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Successive operations have pushed the TTP towards neighboring Afghanistan, and Islamabad claims the terrorist network has now set up bases across the border to attack Pakistani security forces.

The military operations also displaced over 1 million people, but the government claims most of them have returned to their homes.

In 2018, the tribal agencies were given the status of districts and merged with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

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