At least 19 militants and seven soldiers were killed in clashes near the Afghan border in Pakistan's restive North Waziristan tribal area, the country's army said Monday, according to the Associated Press.

The clashes were marked by an intense exchange of fire between security forces and militants, the report added. Of the 19 militants killed, five were militant commanders, AP reported, citing a statement from the country’s army. The seven soldiers were killed when one of the militants detonated a suicide vest while being chased by troops.

“There was information about militants, and when they were being chased and cordoned, one of them exploded his suicide vest, killing seven of our men," a security official said, according to Dawn, a local newspaper.

The Pakistani government has stepped up its offensive against militants in North Waziristan after the implementation of a National Action Plan to fight terrorism in the country.

Another military operation targeting local and foreign militants, specifically in North Waziristan, was also launched after an attack on Karachi's Jinnah International Airport last June, Dawn reported. Since then, several suspected militants have been killed in drone strikes in the region, and the military expects to wrap up the operation by the end of 2015.

The country’s army claims that it has cleared 90 percent of the area since the operation was launched, AP reported. Last month, airstrikes in North Waziristan, a stronghold of the Tehreek-e-Taliban, had killed at least 17 militants.