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250 killed in pakistan clashes { September 2007 }

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Posted on Tue, Oct. 09, 2007
250 die as Pakistani military, insurgents clash

The Washington Post

PESHAWAR, Pakistan | Up to 250 people have been killed in fighting in northwestern Pakistan over the past four days, with Pakistani military jets bombing suspected insurgent hideouts amid tough resistance.

At least 150 insurgents had been killed in the battles in North Waziristan, a remote tribal region that al-Qaida and Taliban fighters have used as a base for operations, the military said. At least 45 soldiers have died.

The most intense clashes have come in the town of Mir Ali, where the military has deployed heavy artillery, helicopter gunships and fighter jets to try to oust insurgents who have been waging a campaign against the Pakistani army.

The use of fighter jets is unusual, but government officials said it was necessary given the strength of the firepower they were facing from the insurgents.

“The resistance from local Taliban is tougher than what the government usually expects,” conceded a tribal affairs official in Peshawar, the capital of North-West Frontier province. “Such tough resistance also gives credence to speculation that al-Qaida-trained foreign fighters might be backing these local Taliban.”

The fighting, which began late Saturday with an insurgent attack on a military convoy, has taken a heavy toll on civilians. There were reports Tuesday of large numbers of casualties among residents caught in the crossfire. Civilians in some villagers used mosque loudspeakers to appeal to both sides not to make targets of homes or shopping areas.

Meanwhile, a full-scale exodus was under way for those who were able to leave. For others, it was too late.

Military officials conceded that the heavy fighting may have resulted in civilian casualties, although they would not give specifics.

Malik Mumtaz, a tribal elder from North Waziristan, said two Pakistani army jets had bombed the village of Aipi on Tuesday afternoon, killing about 50 tribesmen.

Waziristan has become inaccessible to most Pakistanis from outside the area, and aid groups long ago had to shutter their operations there. The few local journalists who report from the region do so covertly.

Tuesday’s fighting came as the White House released a report that pointed to Pakistan’s tribal belt as operational headquarters for al-Qaida and other extremist groups.

© 2007 Kansas City Star and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

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