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'Pakistani Muslim groups cease fire after 9 killed'

world Updated: Jan 12, 2009 13:49 IST

AFP
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Shiite and Sunni Muslim groups in Pakistan's remote northwest have signed a peace accord after days of sectarian clashes in which at least nine people were killed, an official said on Monday.

The violence first erupted on Friday in the town of Hangu in the mountains near the Afghan border -- a region where fighting between rival sects claimed dozens of lives in the past two years.

Army helicopter gunships on Sunday carried out strikes against radical Muslim militant hideouts, before the leaders of the two sides sealed a peace deal.

"The Shiite and Sunni Muslim groups signed a written agreement to cease fire and vacate bunkers on hilltops," local district official Mujibur Rehman told AFP.

Rehman said the ceasefire was "by and large holding" but a security official said an isolated incident occurred on Monday, with a brief exchange of gunfire in the village of Passkeley that prompted the army to shell militant positions.

One paramilitary soldier on the ground was accidentally killed in the incident, the official said.

A curfew also remained in force in Hangu.

"We will take strict action against anyone who tries to violate the curfew," Rehman said.

Shiites account for about 20 percent of Pakistan's 160 million, Sunni-majority population.

The groups usually coexist peacefully but outbreaks of sectarian violence have claimed more than 4,000 lives across Pakistan since the late 1980s.