Pakistani troops kill at least 50 tribal militants
Pakistani soldiers killed at least 50 Islamic militants in a remote tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.india Updated: Mar 05, 2006 01:44 IST
Pakistani troops backed by helicopter gunships on Saturday killed at least 46 tribal militants in clashes with insurgents angry at an earlier raid on a rebel camp, officials said.
Three soldiers were also killed as fierce fighting was still raging in the restive North Waziristan tribal region bordering Afghanistan, just hours after visiting US President George W Bush said more work was needed in the "war on terror".
Hundreds of terrified residents fled the area before the clashes started and all roads were closed, officials and local sources said.
Around 25 died in Mir Ali, a town in the North Waziristan tribal region, while another 21 were killed in another location near the area's main town of Miran Shah, where the unrest first broke out, security officials said.
"The death toll is known to us through various communication intercepts from the militants. They are communicating their losses," said one official who is based in the northwestern city of Peshawar.
The official said two paramilitary troops died and seven were wounded when militants ambushed their vehicle in Mir Ali, while one soldier died and two were hurt when a shell hit their security post in Miran Shah.
Pakistani officials said the military used attack helicopters after bad weather cleared.
The violence comes after around 40 militants and one soldier died on Wednesday when troops backed by helicopter gunships raided a training camp in the village of Saidgai, also in North Waziristan.
Pakistani forces have spent the last four years battling Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants who sneaked across from Afghanistan after a US-led military operation toppled the Taliban, and have also tackled their local supporters.
"For the past three days we have been receiving reports that a militant leader, Maulavi Abdul Khaleq, wanted to retaliate to avenge the security forces' operations against a militant hideout in Saidgai village on Wednesday," Pakistani military spokesman Major General Shaukat said.
"Today in the afternoon these people started firing rockets at security positions in Miran Shah from different directions. The forces responded by using artillery fire," Sultan added.
"The compound of Abdul Khaleq is also engaged and militants also fired rockets from there."
He added later: "It is difficult to say how many militants have died because the operation is continuing through the night. But the army action has been accurate, it has destroyed the targets, particularly their bases from where they were firing rockets."
Local sources said paramilitary artillery fire in Miran Shah targeted two hotels, a telephone exchange and a government building which the militants occupied and then fired rockets from.
Miran Shah was already under the virtual control of around 400 heavily armed tribesmen, mainly students of a local Islamic seminary. Khaleq had urged them to wage a "holy war" after the Saidgai raid.
Brandishing heavy weaponry, the militants had been parading through the streets of the town threatening to kill anyone cooperating with the government authorities, residents said.
Khaleq's men had been joined by students from other local seminaries and had attacked several security checkposts.
Tribal militants on Thursday briefly took control of government offices including the irrigation department and the telephone exchange in Miran Shah, standing down a few hours later.