250 killed in Pakistan clashes with militants


Islamabad : Around 250 pro-Taliban militants and government troops have died in three days of heavy fighting in Pakistan’s tribal belt bordering Afghanistan, the military said Tuesday amid media reports of scores of civilian casualties.

Support TwoCircles

The death toll rose by 50 after government jets bombarded militant hideouts near the town of Mir Ali in North Waziristan, army spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad told media.

“We have received information from local tribal sources that 50 militants were killed,” he said.

However, the private Geo and Aaj news channels quoted villagers as saying the air strikes hit a busy market and that many civilians were killed and at least 150 people were injured.

Large-scale retaliatory operations were launched after insurgent ambushes of army convoys in North Waziristan late Saturday. In total, more than 200 insurgents and 45 soldiers died, according to officials.

The military casualty figures were expected to rise as more bodies of soldiers were recovered, a local administration official said on condition of anonymity.

Villagers claimed that more than 50 civilians also died in earlier strikes, although the military would not confirm any deaths of non-combatants.

Fifteen soldiers were also listed as missing. Their disappearance follows the capture by militants of around 300 soldiers in recent weeks, the majority of which are still being held.

Three prisoners were shot dead last week and more executions are threatened if the government does not meet the militants’ demand for a prisoner exchange.

The country’s mountainous tribal areas are thought to hold refuges of Al Qaeda terrorists and Taliban militants who stage cross-border attacks on international forces in Afghanistan.

Insurgents in the region and surrounding North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) have intensified attacks on security forces since commandos stormed the radical Red Mosque in Islamabad in July. More than 300 people, including 100 soldiers, have died in the attacks.