Clashes between fighters loyal to Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud and a rival pro-government group in northwestern Pakistan's tribal belt have killed at least 70 fighters, two intelligence officials and a militant commander said on Wednesday.
The fighting broke out in the Jandola area, just outside Mehsud's stronghold in South Waziristan, between Mehsud's group and that of Turkistan Bitani, a tribal warlord allied with the government, the intelligence officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.
In telephone calls to The Associated Press, Bitani put the total casualty figure at 90 fighters, and said more than 40 houses were destroyed. He claimed the fighting broke out when Mehsud's militants attacked.
There was no way to independently confirm the death toll, as the fighting was taking place in a remote area that is off-limits to journalists.
The fighting comes one week after a US missile strike in South Waziristan reportedly killed Mehsud. The US and Pakistani officials say they are almost certain last today's strike killed the Taliban leader, but several Taliban fighters have disputed that, insisting Mehsud is alive.
The latest fighting, with militants using rockets, mortars and anti-aircraft guns against Bitani's village of Sura Ghar, continued for several hours, the two intelligence officials said.