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Bloody Pakistan clashes kill civilians: officials

world Updated: Jun 29, 2009 10:44 IST

AFP
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At least three civilians were killed and seven wounded in clashes between militants and security forces in Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt, officials said on Monday.

The battle erupted overnight in Wana, the main town in South Waziristan, a mountainous area outside direct government control on the Afghan border where Pakistani forces are preparing an operation against Taliban warlord Baitullah Mehsud.

“First militants fired rockets at army camp Wana, after which troops responded with artillery fire,” said local government official Ghafoor Shah.

“One of the shells hit people coming out of a mosque in Kaloosha village and killed three people and wounded another seven,” Shah told AFP.

It was not clear where the shell was fired from. Security officials in the area confirmed the death toll.

Kaloosha lies about 17 kilometres (10 miles) west of Wana.

Pakistan on Sunday offered a 615,000 US dollar reward for information leading to the capture, dead or alive, of Mehsud, who is holed up in South Waziristan.

Fighter jets and helicopter gunships have pounded Mehsud hideouts for weeks, and a ground offensive is expected in the wake of assaults since late April to root out the Taliban from three districts of North West Frontier Province.