60 dead in Pakistan border fighting
Staff and agencies
04 April, 2007
By ISHTIAQ MAHSUD, Associated Press Writer Wed Apr 4, 1:31 PM ET
DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan - Tribal militias have killed dozens of foreign militants with alleged al-Qaida ties along the Afghan border, officials said Wednesday, in an offensive Pakistan has declared a victory against terrorism.
The last 24 hours of fighting left 50 Uzbek militants, 10 tribesmen and one Pakistani soldier dead, said three security officials, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Insecurity in the region, where the government has minimal control, puts it largely off-limits to reporters, making it hard to verify what little information emerges.
Some came to fight in the Afghan war against Soviet forces in the 1980s, others to escape U.S. forces that drove the Taliban and al-Qaida from Afghanistan in 2001 or repression in their home countries.
However, the government has cracked down more visibly on suspected al-Qaida affiliates. It scaled back army operations in the border region last year under a series of agreements for tribal leaders to disarm or expel foreigners living there.
On Monday, a council of elders in Wana, South Waziristan‘s main town, declared jihad, or holy war, against the Central Asians, accusing them of disregarding local traditions and killing tribesmen, and beat traditional war drums to raise a militia.
One security official said the fighting was focused on the village of Doza Ghundai. He said dozens of Uzbeks had surrendered and that one Pakistani soldier was killed and five others wounded. The circumstances were unclear.
The main commander of the tribal militia battling the foreign militants is Maulvi Nazir, a known Taliban sympathizer who the government says has come over to its side.
But some in Pakistan saw the recent fighting as a potential turning point.