Pakistan violence leaves 54 dead

Other News Materials 9 November 2008 20:55 (UTC +04:00)

At least 54 people, including three soldiers, were killed in a suspected US airstrike and clashes between Islamist militants and government forces in north-west Pakistan, officials and media reports said on Sunday, dpa reported.

Jets from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) bombed hills in Pakistan's Khyber tribal district, killing at least five people.

The attack took place in Morga area in the remote Tirah valley, located close to the volatile Afghan border on Sunday.

"The airstrike killed at least five people from the Qambar Khel tribe, while four or five more were wounded," an official in the area told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa on condition of anonymity.

Pakistan's north-western tribal region is considered a sanctuary for al-Qaeda and Taliban militants who fled Afghanistan after the US-led invasion following terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001.

International forces fighting the Taliban say fighters hiding in Pakistan's tribal districts routinely launch cross-border attacks on their troops, and ask Islamabad to "do more" to stop these infiltrations.

Pakistan has deployed around 120,000 troops along the treacherous frontier and regularly takes action against the Islamist insurgents.

Security forces killed at least 45 militants and lost three soldiers in overnight clashes and airstrikes in the conflict-ridden north-western districts.

Up to a dozen insurgents were killed on Sunday when Pakistani aircraft pounded militant hideouts in the restive Bajaur tribal district, which is located along Afghan border.

"Jets targeted the positions in Khar and Mamoond areas, killing at least 14 militants and leaving many more injured," a security official said on condition of anonymity.

Successive explosions were reported from the bombed locations, suggesting ammunition caches were also hit, the official added.

The raids came a day after security forces killed 16 militants in attacks carried out by warplanes from the air force and helicopter gunships of the army.

Several compounds in the use of the rebels were also destroyed with artillery fire on Saturday, English-language daily The News reported. Clouds of smoke could be seen billowing from the bombed villages, a local resident told the newspaper.

Government forces launched a major offensive in Bajaur in early August to clear the area of Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters.

According to official data, more than 1,500 militants and 74 troops have so far been killed in the operation, which also caused numerous civilian casualties and displaced around 250,000 people.

Separately, Taliban fighters fired on the security forces in the Shangwatai area of Swat district in the North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) on Saturday, triggering heavy fighting, The News cited a military spokesman as saying.

Ten attackers disguised as government troops were killed in the crossfire and a score of more injured, while three soldiers from the paramilitary Frontier Corps lost their lives.

Five more Taliban died in the clashes that continued in several other parts of Swat, where the military is fighting the followers of radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah, who is trying to enforce Taliban rule in the region.

A journalist was killed early Sunday when troops opened fire on him during curfew in Mingora, the main town of Swat, the Urdu-language Jang newspaper said in its internet edition.

Swat used to be a tourist haven until early 2007, drawing crowds of holidaymakers to the Buddhist archaeological sites and Pakistan's only ski resort, which has now been destroyed by the Islamic insurgents. The mountain valley is also known for its trout streams.