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Tribal militants occupy Govt buildings in Pak

Militants briefly took control of government offices in protest at the killing of 40 rebels in an army raid on a training camp.

india Updated: Mar 03, 2006 16:40 IST

Pakistani tribal militants brandishing assault rifles briefly took control of government offices in protest at the killing of 40 rebels in an army raid on a training camp, officials said on Friday.

Up to 400 armed men gathered in the remote town of Miranshah near the Afghan border on Thursday and forcibly occupied the irrigation department, a telephone exchange and several other buildings, a local administration official said.

But the men, most of whom were students of a local madrassa run by a hardline pro-Taliban leader, vacated the premises seven hours later following talks mediated by local tribal chieftains, the official told the agency.

"They were protesting the government raid in Saidgai village on Wednesday which killed up to 40 militants, including some foreigners," he said.

"They were led by Maulvi Abdul Khaleq, a hardline pro Taliban leader, and leader of the seminary."

A provincial government statement said the town's bazaar was also occupied by the "miscreants" -- Pakistani jargon both for local militants and Al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgents who fled Afghanistan in late 2001.

Wednesday's raid on the militant hideout came two days before US President George Bush, on his first tour of South Asia, was due to visit Pakistan for talks with President Pervez Musharraf on the "war on terror".

One soldier died and 15 others were wounded in the attack.

Helicopter gunships pounded the militant complex, which housed eight residential quarters, before ground troops moved in for a search operation, prompting a fierce gunbattle.

Pakistani forces have spent the last four years battling Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants who sneaked across the mountainous border after a US-led military operation toppled the Taliban, and have also tackled their local supporters.

The military says it has killed hundreds of Al-Qaeda-linked militants in operations throughout the semi-autonomous tribal areas since late 2003. More than 500 Pakistani soldiers have also died.

First Published: Mar 03, 2006 16:40 IST