Thu, Oct 11, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Clashes in Pakistan reach deadliest level since 2001

AP , MIRAN SHAH, PAKISTAN

Shelling resumed early yesterday in an area of northwestern Pakistan where battles between troops and militants have killed up to 250 people and sent thousands more fleeing, witnesses said.

The five days of clashes in the North Waziristan region near the Afghan border have been the deadliest since Pakistan threw its support behind the US-led "war on terror" in 2001.

Bursts of artillery or mortar fire could be heard before dawn in Miran Shah, the region's main town, yesterday. Farid Ullah, a resident of nearby Mir Ali, said the shells had hit houses in that town.

"I have not dared to go outside, so I don't know if there anyone was hurt," Ullah said by telephone.

Pakistani Army spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad said that while artillery may have been fired, no major incidents took place overnight.

On Tuesday, residents said Pakistani aircraft bombed the nearby village of Epi, killing dozens of militants and civilians and injuring many more, including shoppers in a packed bazaar.

The army said the planes were targeting militant hideouts near Mir Ali and that local tribesmen reported about 50 militants were killed.

Arshad said on Tuesday that the airstrikes might have killed some civilians, but he had no exact numbers.

The army has reported the deaths of up to 200 militants and 47 troops.

Ullah said some 10,000 people from Mir Ali and surrounding villages had abandoned their homes and, with the army blocking the roads, walked through the mountains to safer towns.

He said 60 of his relatives were among them, but that he was staying behind along with his aging mother.

A bomb destroyed 10 shops selling music discs -- frowned on by fundamentalists -- in the town of Kohat before dawn yesterday, police said.

No one was hurt. A similar attack in the city of Peshawar on Tuesday wounded a dozen people.

The violence comes as Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf tries to secure another term as president.

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