Two soldiers were martyred in a shootout with militants during a search operation in the country’s northwest, a former militant stronghold, Pakistan military said on Sunday. The operation was conducted late Saturday in the Spalga area near Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan. The area has served as a base for Pakistani and foreign militants until recent years, when the military cleared it.Earlier this month, the Pakistani Taliban took responsibility for a powerful roadside bomb in northwestern Pakistan that targeted a military vehicle, martyring three soldiers and wounding four. That attack raised fears that the Pakistani Taliban are regrouping in the region. Also known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, they are a separate insurgent group from the Afghan Taliban, although Pakistan’s militant groups are often interlinked with those across the border in Afghanistan. The Pakistani Taliban have been targeting the military and civilians across the country since 2001, when Pakistan joined the US-led war on terror following the Sept 11 attacks in the US.Since then, the insurgents have declared war on the government of Pakistan and have carried out numerous attacks, including a brutal assault on an army-run school in the city of Peshawar in 2014 that martyred 140 children and several teachers. Ealier this month, terrorist commander Ihsan Ullah alias Ihsan Sanray along with three other terrorists was killed during an intelligence-based operation (IBO) in Ghariom, Shaktu near the inter-district boundary of North and South Waziristan. Ihsan Sanray masterminded numerous terrorist activities where his successful execution in the IBO was termed as a major breakthrough in a tweet by Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (DG ISPR) Major General Babar Iftikhar. More recently, he was involved in planning and execution of terrorist attacks in Shaktu area which led to martyrdom of several soldiers and officers including Lt Nasir (Shaheed) and Capt Sabih (Shaheed), it added.