The Pakistani military also claims to have killed 11 fighters in South Waziristan, another tribal region on the border, when a base was attacked overnight.

"Around 75-100 militants attacked a check post on the night of August 26-27. Security forces effectively repulsed the attack.  Reportedly 11 militants were killed and 15-20 others injured," a statement from the military said.

Violence is spreading across Pakistan at a time of both political uncertainty following the resignation of Pervez Musharraf as president, and economic instability as Pakistani stocks sunk to their lowest level in more than two years.

Judges reappointed

In a move condemned by the country's lawyers as a political stunt, the country's weakened coalition government on Wednesday returned eight of the dozens of judges sacked by Musharraf last year to their posts.

Agha Rafiq, the Sindh provincial law secretary in Karachi, said: "Eight former judges of the Sindh High Court took oath today."

He said the eight had not been reinstated, but rather freshly appointed - a technicality that allows the government to hold off on any change to the status of the other judges removed from office.

Just two days earlier, Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister and leader of the PML-N party, quit the government over differences with Asaf Ali Zardari, the leading coalition partner, on the issue of the deposed judges.

"This is a conspiracy aimed at dividing the judges and lawyers"

Rashid Razvi, leader of the Karachi bar council

Sharif and Pakistani lawyers are calling for reinstatement of all 63 judges sacked under a state of emergency, including Iftikhar Chaudhry, the chief justice.

Rashid Razvi, leader of the Karachi bar council, speaking on the reappointed judges, said: "This is a conspiracy aimed at dividing the judges and lawyers."

The judges had previously refused offers to return to their jobs, insisting on reinstatement of all, including Chaudhry.

Aitezaz Ahsan, the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association and a leader of the lawyers' movement, said: "We are deeply sad and disappointed."
 
He said the eight who took office "gave up when our victory was in sight".

Musharraf, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999, deposed dozens of judges under a state of emergency last November when it appeared they would challenge his re-election as president the previous month.

The sackings sparked large and sometimes violent protests by Pakistan's influential lawyers.

Musharraf, whose allies suffered a setback in February parliamentary elections, resigned under a threat of impeachment last week.

But the ruling coalition has since collapsed after failing to agree on how to restore the judges.