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Pakistani tribesmen, military kill 32 Taliban


Islamabad : A tribal militia and government forces killed at least 32 Islamic militants in separate actions in Pakistan’s northwest region over a 24-hour period, a security official said Tuesday.

Local tribesmen in Ambar village of the tribal district of Mohmand Monday night asked Taliban guerrillas to leave their area, triggering an intense gunfight that continued through Tuesday morning.

“The clashes left 23 militants dead, while three tribesmen also suffered bullet wounds,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

All those killed were local insurgents, including five from eastern Punjab province, according to the official. The militants abducted three members of the militia, locally known as lashkar.

Tribes in some parts of the lawless region have lately taken up arms against Taliban fighters as government forces intensified their efforts to quell the growing insurgency.

Troops are fighting Taliban remnants in the northwestern Swat Valley and its nearby districts after regaining control of much of the region in more than two-month fighting that killed over 1,700 rebels and around 160 soldiers.

Amid low-scale resistance from the fleeing militants, the government has started the return of nearly two million people uprooted by the conflict.

According to media reports, some 3,000 families – each with an average of seven people – went back to their homes in the first two days of the campaign. But the rate of return is much slower than expected, mainly due to security concerns.

A military statement said Tuesday that five insurgents were killed in an exchange of fire that erupted during a search operation by security forces in the Kuza Banda area of Swat. Four more died in similar incidents in Tahirabad and Billogram villages.

With the Swat operation nearing its end, the country is preparing to go after the top Pakistani Taliban commander, Baitullah Mehsud, in the South Waziristan tribal district, a known hub of Al Qaeda militants.

The United States and other Western countries have hailed Pakistan’s counterinsurgency operations in the restive tribal belt, which is used by the Taliban to launch deadly strikes against international forces operating in Afghanistan.

In a separate incident, two people were killed and one was injured on Tuesday when an oil tanker supplying fuel to the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan was attacked by suspected militants near the Afghan-Pakistani border, an official said.

Gunmen targeted the oil tanker in the Landi Kotal area near the Khyber Pass, the main land route used to ferry food and military supplies to foreign troops in landlocked Afghanistan.

Militants occasionally attack convoys and sites where trucks park at night to disrupt the supply line.