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Hundreds of families flee tense Pak town

Armed tribesmen are on the streets of a tribal province in the aftermath of a military strike on a suspected militant hideout.

india Updated: Mar 04, 2006 18:24 IST

Hundreds of families left a remote town in northwestern Pakistan on Saturday where armed tribesmen roamed the streets in the aftermath of a military strike on a suspected militant hideout, officials said.

The tribesmen claimed that local people were killed in the Pakistani army attack on a suspected Al-Qaeda camp earlier this week in a village near the Afghan border in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal region.

Helicopter gunships and ground troops attacked the tented camp in Saidgi, a village west of Miran Shah, the main town in the region. Military officials said 45 people were killed in the operation and several of them were foreigners.

On Saturday, Maulvi Abdul Khaliq, a local cleric leading the rebellious tribesmen, demanded that authorities stop killing "innocent" people and only carry out operations against militants in coordination with local tribesmen.

He urged local elders and lawmakers not to visit the office of the region's top administrator as a protest against the Saidgi operation. The boycott was announced from loudspeakers mounted on pickup trucks and mosques in Miran Shah.

Bazaars and government offices closed after the announcement, and 500 families left the town, fearing a show down between security forces and the armed tribesmen, who are mainly students from Islamic schools, according to a local intelligence official, who declined to be named because he is not authorised to comment to media.

Another official in the town, who sought anonymity for the same reason, said many families were leaving in haste, without packing many belongings.

The students are often referred to as "local Taliban" -- reflecting their sympathies with the hardline Islamic militia in Afghanistan.

On Thursday, more than 200 of the "local Taliban" occupied government buildings housing the telecommunication and irrigation departments in Miran Shah but later withdrew after local elders mediated.

The army of Pakistan, a key ally in the US-led war on terror, has mounted major counterterrorism operations in the past two to three years in the largely lawless regions of South and North Waziristan, but has failed to assert the government's control.

First Published: Mar 04, 2006 18:24 IST