Peace talks after Pak tribal belt bloodshed | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 12, 2007 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, October 12, 2007

Peace talks after Pak tribal belt bloodshed

Pakistani tribal elders tried to broker a formal ceasefire between militants and the army yesterday following some of the bloodiest clashes along the Afghan border for six years.
The talks were being held in Miranshah, the main town in the lawless tribal zone of North Waziristan, after days of fierce fighting that officials say left around 250 people dead, including 47 soldiers.
Pakistan's army said Thursday 50 foreign militants including Arabs were among 200 rebels killed in fierce clashes near the Afghan border, indicating the involvement of al-Qaeda.
Tribesmen revealed that "foreigners" were among the dead during a meeting in the troubled tribal zone of North Waziristan aimed at brokering a formal end to days of intense fighting, the military said.
The clashes were the culmination of three months of violence sparked by a government raid on an al-Qaeda-linked mosque in Islamabad in July and the collapse of a controversial peace deal in North Waziristan.
Of the dead foreign rebels "25 have been recognised as Uzbek and the remaining 25 are from Tajikistan, Afghanistan and of Arab descent," a military statement said, citing the tribesmen.
"This is one of the heaviest tolls suffered by the foreigners," a security official said separately, using the official Pakistani jargon for rebels linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.
"We hope that both sides will agree to ceasefire and roads will be opened," fundamentalist MP and leading negotiator Nek Zaman told AFP before heading to talks with the local administration.
But so far there was no "breakthrough" in the talks, said a tribal elder close to members of the jirga, or tribal peace committee.
An informal ceasefire began on Wednesday to allow tribesmen to bury some 50 people who were killed in an airstrike the previous day that hit the main market in the historic village of Ippi.
The army said the victims of the bombing were pro-Taliban militants, 200 of whom it says have been killed since Sunday. But residents said the dead were civilians including women and children.
Thousands of people have fled Ippi and the nearby town of Mir Ali, which has been identified by President Pervez Musharraf as a key haunt for Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.
Roads remained closed in the region and there was a severe shortage of food and other essential items, residents said, although the bazaar in Miranshah some 25km was partially open.
Residents said the violence would cast a pall over Eid-ul-Fitr, the Muslim festival marking the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan this weekend.
"This will be a sad Eid for us as our brothers and sisters have died in Mir Ali," tribesman Qadeer Khan told AFP in Miranshah market.
The clashes have followed a pattern repeated over the past few years in the rugged tribal zone, whereby Pakistani forces strike at militants for several days after members of the security forces are attacked.
Security sources said there was particular anger this time because the bodies of some soldiers had been found with their throats slit or had been burned.

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