Government forces also launched an offensive against the fighters in the nearby Bajaur tribal region on the Afghan border in August.

Death toll

Air strikes killed 12 fighters there on Friday, a paramilitary official said.
   
Pakistani tribal areas on the Afghan border are regarded as safe havens for fighters linked to al-Qaeda and the Taliban and violence has surged there since government forces launched military operations against them.
   
The fighters have responded with suicide bomb attacks, including one on a major hotel in the capital, Islamabad, last month that killed 55 people.
   

The military said on Friday one of the two Chinese telecommunication engineers kidnapped in northwestern Dir district by Taliban fighters along with two Pakistanis had been rescued after seven weeks in captivity.

"One Chinese engineer has been recovered," Colonel Nadeem Ahmed, an army spokesman, said, without giving further details.

Muslim Khan, the Taliban spokesman, told the AFP news agency that the second hostage was  injured before he was recaptured.

"Last night an incident happened after which one Chinese engineer was hurt and the other went missing," Khan said.

In 2004, Muslim fighters led by Abdullah Mehsud, a former Guantanamo Bay  prisoner, kidnapped two Chinese engineers working on a multi-million-dollar hydroelectric dam project in the South Waziristan tribal area.

One of the hostages died in a botched rescue bid.

'Severely injured'


A separate Taliban source said the hostages were being moved from one location to another when they tried to escape.

He said the recaptured man had severely injured his leg after he fell down a steep mountain slope.

"They were near the town of Matta in the Swat valley when they made a run for it," he said.
  
Pakistani army officials who declined to be named said the man who escaped  had come into contact with local anti-Taliban tribesmen who guided  him to a nearby army post.
   
The Taliban have demanded the government release 122 fighters captured in Swat during the ongoing military operation.