Two Uzbek militants killed in Pakistan tribal clash


WANA: January 13, 2008. (AFP) - Two Uzbek militants were killed when a group of them attacked the house of a pro-government tribal elder in Pakistan`s troubled tribal region near the Afghan border, officials said. The pre-dawn clash erupted when dozens of militants launched an attack on the house of Khan Khannan in South Waziristan district, local administration official Ayaz Mandokhel told AFP. Khannan`s men guarding the house retaliated and killed two Uzbek militants, he said, adding that "their bodies were still lying in the area." Other militants fled after the clash, he said. Khannan is a pro-government elder in Shakai where gunmen shot dead six members of a tribal peace committee about one week ago. The tribesmen blame those killings on Baitullah Mehsud, a leading Taliban warlord who has also been accused by the Pakistani government of masterminding last month`s assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. Pakistani troops in a clash late Wednesday killed up to 50 militants after around 250 to 300 of them tried to attack a military fort in Ladha town of South Waziristan region, the military said. Military sources said those who mounted the attack on the fort were mainly followers of Mehsud. Pakistan has deployed more than 90,000 troops to the tribal belt to combat Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants who fled Afghanistan after US-led forces invaded the country in 2001 in the wake of the September 11 attacks. Separately, Pakistani troops arrested 41 supporters of pro-Taliban cleric Maulana Fazlullah, who has been leading a campaign to impose Islamic sharia law in the restive northwestern valley of Swat, officials said. Troops pounded suspected hideouts in the valley`s Kabal and Matta areas on Saturday, a security official said, adding that helicopters also shelled hills where militants were believed to be hiding. The military in a statement said security forces apprehended 41 suspected militants including local commander Mohammad Raheem, a close relative of Fazlullah, during a search operation. Fazlullah, who is in hiding, is known as "Mullah Radio" for broadcasting fiery speeches over his private FM radio station. The cleric has called for a holy war against the Pakistan government. According to government reports, around 330 militants have been killed in the area in recent weeks during an army campaign to clear the scenic valley of the militants. The valley remains under a dusk to dawn curfew since the troops launched the operation in late November.

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