'Strong and confident'

Most of those who died in the fighting in the Jandola area were from Bittani's fighters.

In depth

 Profile: Baitullah Mehsud
 Profile: Pakistan Taliban 
 Witness: Pakistan in crisis
Inside Story: Pakistan's military
 Riz Khan: The battle for the soul of Pakistan

Bittani told German Press Agency dpa that 100 fighters died in the clashes while "our 40 houses have been destroyed.

"We have pushed them (Taliban) back but exchange of fire still continues," he said.

Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder said: “If Bittani reports are accurate, it would be indicative of the fact that the Pakistani Taliban are still quite strong enough and confident enough to launch such a big attack."

Another intelligence official said government troops had started to pound Taliban fighters with artillery fire, forcing them to retreat.

"There several vehicles have been hit and their men have also died, but we don't have exact figures," he said.

The fighting comes one week after a US missile strike in South Waziristan reportedly killed Mehsud.

The US and Pakistani officials say they are almost certain last Wednesday's strike killed the Taliban leader, but several Taliban fighters have insisted Mehsud is alive.