Saturday, March 31, 2007

Battles raging among factions in Waziristan

Pakistan fights near Afghanistan kill 52

Fighting between local and foreign militants Friday killed 52 people in a conflict between Pakistanis and suspected al-Qaida-linked extremists.

Since fighting began last week, 213 people have been killed, including 177 Uzbeks and their local allies, [Pakistani Interior Minister] Sherpao told The Associated Press.

The minister said the conflict intensified Friday after foreigners failed to comply with an ultimatum from tribal elders to leave their territory. Security officials said tribal militias had fired rockets at the hideouts of the foreigners in several locations.

South Waziristan is generally off-limits to journalists, making it hard to verify reports of the fighting.

[T]he government has claimed that the violence in South Waziristan vindicates its policy of using traditional leaders, and not the army, to combat militancy along the border.

Some analysts, however, say militants with links to Taliban and al-Qaida are involved on both sides of the current conflict, which also pits local tribes against each other, and that blood feuds could deepen insecurity in a region viewed as a possible hiding place for Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri.

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