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Two soldiers, three militants killed in rare gunfight in Pakistan

Two Pakistani troops and three militants were killed in a rare firefight in the country's relatively peaceful northern areas

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Two Pakistani troops and three militants were killed in a rare firefight in the country's relatively peaceful northern areas Thursday, officials said.

The incident occurred in the Chilas district in the northern Gilgit-Baltistan region, a scenic tourist hub where the Himalayas, Karakoram and Hindu Kush mountain ranges converge.

"Three wanted terrorists were killed by security forces in a successful intelligence based operation," the military said in a statement.

It added: "The terrorists killed were involved in attacks on civil transport, tourists and security forces. Two security forces personnel also embraced shahadat (martyrdom) in exchange of fire."

A search operation is still underway, it added, and security forces have cordoned off the site in Gayal village.

The statement did not mention which group the militants belonged to, but the Chilas district is a known stronghold of Sunni extremist outfits such as the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

The incident came two days after military courts sentenced 13 militants to death for terrorism-related offences, including the 2013 massacre of 10 foreign mountaineers in northern Pakistan.

Gunmen dressed in police uniforms stormed the base camp at Nanga Parbat, Pakistan's second highest mountain camp, and shot dead one American who also held Chinese citizenship, two other Chinese, three Ukrainians, two Slovakians, one Lithuanian, one Nepalese and a Pakistani guide.

The attack led to a slump in foreign visitors, though the tourism industry has recovered slightly since, thanks in part to a huge rise in domestic holiday-makers.

Pakistan has been battling a homegrown Islamist insurgency for more a decade following its decision to side with the US-led coalition against the Taliban in Afghanistan.