Monday, June 29, 2009

At least 27 killed in Waziristan, Kurram clashes

At least 27 killed in Waziristan, Kurram clashes
By Our Correspondent 
Monday, 29 Jun, 2009 | 04:05 PM PST |
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Nearly 45,000 civilians have fled from South Waziristan as fighting intensifies, according to military estimates. — AP/File photo.

DERA ISMAIL KHAN: Clashes and air strikes killed at least 27 militants, including three top Taliban commanders and five civilians, as fighting surged Monday across Pakistan's northwest tribal belt, a Taliban stronghold, officials said.

Fighter jets pounded suspected insurgent hideouts in South and North Waziristan, where the military says it is using air raids to lay the groundwork for a full-scale assault against Pakistani Taliban warlord Baitullah Mehsud.

Pakistan has offered a 615,000-US-dollar reward for information leading to the capture, dead or alive, of Mehsud, who is holed up in South Waziristan and who has been blamed for some of the worst attacks in the country.

'At least seven militants were killed after jet fighters pounded their hideouts in Saam village of South Waziristan,' a security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

In the region's Tank district, three top commanders of the outlawed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) were killed during clashes with security forces.

Official sources told DawnNews, the TTP Tank chief, Rasheedullah, and deputy amir Ikramullah were killed in a clash with security forces in Ghara Buddha area of Tank.

Security forces were on a routine search and cordon operation when militants opened fire on them.

The gunbattle continued for some time which left a number of militants, including their Tank amir Rashidullah and naib Amir Ikramullah, dead.

In another incident, the body of Baitullah's aide Usman was recovered from the Gara Pathar area, after he had been shot dead by an unknown assailant.

Meanwhile, three houses and one school occupied by militants and a Taliban office, were targeted in the air strike in South Waziristan, the security official said.

The houses of Taliban commanders Zarbat Khan, Naseeb Khan and Umar Khan had been destroyed but there were no reports of any casualties.

More than 30 commanders and key supporters of Baitullah have been shot dead in Tank and Dera Ismail Khan since Turkistan Bhittani and the Abdullah Mehsud group announced they would rid the area of Baitullah's group.

In North Waziristan, five militants were killed when helicopters shelled their hideouts in the town of Madda Khel in retaliation for an ambush which killed 12 soldiers Sunday, said a security official in the region's main town Miramshah.

Overnight, 15 Afghan-bound Taliban fighters were killed in a gun battle with tribesman in the region of Kurram, which is also part of Pakistan's tribal belt, officials said.

The clash erupted when militants were crossing an area dominated by the Toori tribe of Shia Muslims late Sunday, local administration official Siddiq Ahmed told AFP.

'The gun battle left 15 militants and two Toori tribesmen dead,' he said.

Security officials confirmed the casualties near the town of Parachinar, bordering Afghanistan, and said Tooris feared the Taliban had infiltrated the area.

At least three civilians were killed in the village of Kaloosha, about 17 kilometres west of Wana, the main town in South Waziristan.

'First militants fired rockets at an army camp in Wana, after which troops responded with artillery fire,' said local government official Ghafoor Shah.

'One of the shells hit people coming out of a mosque in Kaloosha village and killed three people and wounded another seven,' Shah told AFP.

It was not clear where the shell was fired from. Security officials in the area confirmed the death toll.





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