Twenty-three Pakistani soldiers and 110 fighters have been killed in fierce fighting in a strategic area of northwest Pakistan, according to a Pakistani military official.

The army, backed by fighter planes and helicopter gunships, launched an operation against the Pakistan Taliban and its allies in the remote Tirah Valley four days ago and fighting was still raging on Tuesday.

"In four days of fighting, 110 militants and 23 Pakistan army soldiers have been killed and dozens of militants injured,"
a senior military official told Reuters news agency.

The clashes signalled a fresh military push in the Tirah valley of Khyber district, where the military has been targeting Taliban and Lashkar-e-Islam who pose a threat to the nearby northwestern city of Peshawar.

Pakistan's military, one of the biggest in the world, has failed to break the back of the Pakistani Taliban, despite a series of offensives against their strongholds in the northwest.

The Pakistani Taliban, which is close to al-Qaeda and is blamed for many of the suicide bombings across Pakistan, is fighting to topple the government.

"The valley has not been cleared of the militants yet even though jet fighters and helicopter gunships pounded their
positions," the military official said.

He said the fighters could easily sneak into other semi-autonomous tribal regions near the Afghan border, a
strategy they oftehn often deployed when the pressure is on.

The army and the Taliban, backed by Lashkar-e-Islam, have been fighting for control of heights above Tirah Valley, which
is located in Khyber tribal region. 

Source: Agencies