A complex network of 156 caves used by the Taliban and al-Qaeda has been discovered by the Pakistan army dug into rocky mountains close to the Afghan border.

The tunnels, which are thought to have been created over five to seven years, were carved into sheer rock within view of the snow-capped peaks of eastern Afghanistan.

The network was found during an offensive against Islamist militants in the country's semi-autonomous tribal areas in which 75 militants were killed.

Maj Gen Tariq Khan said the caves served as a key militant headquarters until troops overran the complex in the offensive.

"There were Egyptians, Uzbeks, Chechens and Afghans killed in the operation," he said.

Bedding including pillows and mattresses were found in the caves in Damadola, in the Bajaur tribal region, suggesting inhabitants had camped out for significant periods.

Maj Gen Khan added: "Al-Qaeda was there. They had occupied the ridges. There were 156 caves designed as a defensive complex.

"We have now cleared this area till the Afghan border, military operation is in its final stages and policing has been started."

He said 75 militants were killed, 76 arrested and 364 forced to surrender in the operation.

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