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7 Die In Taliban Attack On Tribal Leaders

Taliban militants attacked Pakistani tribal leaders near the Afghan border, triggering a gun battle and an explosion that killed seven people, an official said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, NATO troops in eastern Afghanistan fired 20 artillery rounds at insurgents inside Pakistan after coordinating with Islamabad, officials said Tuesday, and five Afghan troops were killed in a clash with insurgents in the west.

The clash between the militants and the elders happened late Monday in Bajur, a lawless region in Pakistan's northwest where troops and tribal militias have been battling Taliban guerrillas for more than three months.

Israr Khan, a government representative in the semi-autonomous region, said Taliban gunmen surrounded a group of elders from the Mamund tribe in a fortress-like compound in the village of Inayat Kili.

An hourslong gun battle between the two sides killed a commander of the Taliban fighters as well as two guards in the compound, Khan said. Four elders also died when an explosion hit the compound, he said. It was unclear what caused the blast.

Taliban spokesman Maulvi Umar confirmed the death of a militant commander in Monday's clash.

Pakistani and U.S. officials have applauded efforts by some tribal leaders to establish militias to fight Taliban and al Qaeda militants blamed for attacks on foreign troops in Afghanistan as well as targets in Pakistan.

NATO said it fired the rounds into Pakistan after insurgents attacked its troops in Afghanistan's eastern Paktika province with rockets from across the border on Sunday.

"The artillery fire caused a secondary explosion at the rocket launch site, which indicates additional munitions in the location," the NATO statement said.

Pakistani officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Officials say relations between NATO-led troops in Afghanistan and Pakistan's military are improving.

However, Pakistan has been complaining about unilateral missile strikes conducted by U.S. forces into its tribal areas. Pakistani officials say the U.S. strikes violate their country's sovereignty.

Separately, insurgents in the western Farah province ambushed an Afghan army supply convoy, killing five troops and wounding five others, said Gen. Fazludin Sayar, the army commander for the western region.

Sayar said five insurgents also died in the clash in Farah's Bala Buluk region on Monday.

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