PESHAWAR - Troops killed 17 Taliban on Friday in a clash in Khyber Agency, with one soldier and three militiamen also dying, security officials said.

Fighting erupted after Pakistani troops and a government-backed local militia launched a joint operation against the Taliban in the Spindand area of Khyber tribal district, which borders Afghanistan.

“At least 17 militants have been killed in the clash while one soldier and three members of the militia embraced martyrdom,” said a security official.

Two security personnel and four militia members were wounded, he said. “The number of injured from the Taliban side is unknown,” he added. A local administration official in Khyber, Mutahir Zeb Khan, confirmed the clash. “The target of the operation was a local Taliban group, Lashkar-e-Islam. The fighting started on Thursday evening and the exchange of fire continued at short intervals,” said.

Some 18,000 people fled their homes in Khyber in October last year amid fears of a fresh onslaught of fighting between the army and militants linked to the Taliban. Militants have killed more than 4,800 people across Pakistan since government troops raided an extremist mosque in Islamabad in July 2007. Security forces also conducted search operations in different areas of Khyber Agency including Tirah, Mir Sir, Islami Sangar, Jihadi Sangar. The injured were shifted to hospital for treatment.

The security forces also targeted suspected hideouts of militants with gunship helicopters in Khyber Agency.