30 killed in Pakistani tribal area clashes
At least 30 people including four civilians were killed yesterday in clashes between militants and soldiers in Pakistan's restive tribal areas, the military and residents said.
Security forces launched an attack against militant bases and hide-outs in the restive North Waziristan region bordering Afghanistan, military spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad said.
At least 20 militants were killed and 15 wounded in the fighting in a mountainous area south of the town of Mir Ali, Arshad said.
"We got this information by intercepting the militants' own communications," the general told AFP.
The military later said in a statement that six soldiers were killed, up from an earlier toll of two. Six soldiers were wounded, the statement said.
Local residents said four civilians also died, including three women.
The early morning operation was launched in retaliation for overnight attacks by extremists on two military convoys in the region that left two soldiers dead and another 30 wounded, Arshad said.
Separately the military said security forces arrested two militants in the same troubled tribal area -- the region where the United States alleges that al-Qaeda and the Taliban have been regrouping since 9/11.
"The miscreants were fired upon by security forces when they were fleeing from the site after planting an IED (improvised bomb)" it said in a statement.
Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf girded yesterday for a Supreme Court battle over whether he can claim victory in a presidential vote, a confrontation which could further destabilise the country.
The country's top court is however weighing up the legality of the poll and whether Musharraf was allowed to stand while keeping his role as army chief, ruling on Friday that the result cannot be confirmed until it decides.
A judgement against the general, who grabbed power in a bloodless coup in 1999, could push Musharraf over the brink after months of political turmoil and make him declare martial law.
Musharraf late Saturday insisted that his "great victory" was democratic, rejecting claims that abstentions by former premier Benazir Bhutto's party and resignations by other opposition MPs made it illegitimate.
Musharraf has been under mounting pressure to tackle al-Qaeda and Taliban militants whom US officials allege have based themselves in the tribal areas since fleeing over the Afghan border in 2001.