Mon, Jul 23, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Pakistan army kills 13 Taliban fighters

NO LOSSES Militants abandoned a September peace pact and attacked soldiers in several locations over the weekend. The Pakistan authorities arrested seven rebels

AGENCIES , ISLAMABAD

Pakistan's army has killed up to 13 pro-Taliban fighters in North Waziristan, the military said yesterday, amid escalating violence in the troubled region after militants tore up a peace pact with the government.

Armed militants, in small groups, attempted to attack several army posts on Saturday night but their bid was foiled.

"Our forces were alert. They retaliated and killed up to 13 militants," military spokesman Major-General Waheed Arshad said.

The soldiers suffered no losses, he added.

The militants riding in three to four vehicles opened fire at the army post in Ghulam Khan area, near the Afghan border, on Saturday evening.

The soldiers returned the fire, killing up to four militants.

The militants later attacked a complex of posts in the same region but soldiers thwarted their attempt and killed nine of them.

Arshad said seven militants were also arrested.

Pakistan's Waziristan region has long been regarded as a safe haven for al-Qaeda and Taliban militants sheltered by their local Pashtun allies.

Pakistani authorities struck a deal with the local militants last September in a bid to isolate foreign militants and curb their cross-border incursions into Afghanistan.

But the militants scrapped the deal last week, accusing the government of setting up more security posts in the region and launching attacks on them.

US President George W. Bush said on Saturday he was troubled by a US intelligence report that al-Qaeda was gaining strength in Pakistani tribal region.

In his taped weekly radio address, Bush said Pakistani tribal leaders have to this point proven unwilling or unable to police the area themselves.

However, he said his ally President Pervez Musharraf was committed to fighting militants.

"President Pervez Musharraf recognizes the agreement has not been successful or well-enforced and is taking active steps to correct," he said.

The US report made public this week found a "persistent and evolving" threat to the US from Islamic militant groups, especially Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda.

US officials have said the US never ruled out any options when it came to striking against al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

Pakistan rejected the statements as "irresponsible and dangerous" and said only its own troops could carry out counter-terrorism actions on its soil.

US forces in Afghanistan have carried out strikes in Pakistan in the past, often using missile-carrying Predator drone aircraft, without confirming them so as not to embarrass Musharraf.

The militants have launched several attacks and ambushes in North Waziristan since the scrapping of the peace deal.

They were also enraged over the storming of the Red Mosque in the capital, Islamabad, this month by army commandos, and have carried out a series of bomb and suicide attacks across the country to avenge the assault.

Meanwhile the former chief cleric of the mosque reiterated his call for the enforcement of Islamic laws.

The public comment on Saturday by Maulana Abdul Aziz was his first since he was arrested on July 5 while trying to flee the mosque, then under government siege, wearing a woman's burqa.

Aziz's arrest came days after troops encircled the mosque, ordering him and his brother Abdul Rashid Ghazi, the mosque's deputy chief cleric, to surrender along with militant seminary students in order to avoid a military assault.

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