Wed, Oct 10, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Pakistani military says 195 dead in days of clashes

AP , MIRAN SHAH, PAKISTAN

The Pakistani army said yesterday the death toll from three days of fierce fighting against militants near the Afghan border has risen to 195.

The battles in the North Waziristan region have killed 150 fighters and 45 soldiers, an army statement said. Another 12 to 15 troops were missing, it added.

Security forces have rejected a ceasefire proposed by the militants and will "continue punitive action till complete peace is restored" in an area considered a stronghold of pro-Taliban and al-Qaeda groups, it said.

The fighting came as Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf tries to secure another term as president, vowing to shore up Pakistan's troubled effort against Islamic extremism.

But his troops are suffering mounting losses as they try to re-assert authority in a swath of mountainous territory where warlords supportive of Islamic militant groups have seized control.

The army said another 50 militants and 20 soldiers had been wounded during the latest surge of fighting, which began Saturday and has seen the army use helicopters and jets to bombard militant targets.

It said that it had established contact with 35 troops reported missing on Monday after militants attacked security posts and a foot patrol near the villages of Mir Ali, Hasu Khel and Shahbaz Khel, but was still looking for 12 to 15 others.

The army said it was unaware of any civilian casualties, although one official said on Monday that a dozen civilians had died when a shell struck their home in Mir Ali. It was unclear who fired the shell.

Pakistan sent troops into its rugged, semiautonomous frontier region for the first time after Taliban and al-Qaeda militants took refuge there from the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

The renewed fighting comes after the collapse of peace deals under which tribal elders were supposed to curb militancy in return for a withdrawal of security forces.

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