MIRAMSHAH (North Waziristan), May 8: Life was limping back to normality here on Tuesday as death toll in two days of clashes between security forces and militants shot up to 39.

Officials said 12 security personnel, 10 civilians, including women and children, and 17 militants were killed. Most of the militants were killed in an artillery attack on a compound. They were ‘Punjabi’ and Mehsud Taliban now safely ensconced in North Waziristan after losing their redoubt in the neighbouring South Waziristan.The officials said 72 people were injured, adding that casualty figure could go up because some people were still trapped under the debris of houses flattened by flying shells from explosions in arms and ammunition stores hit by helicopter gunships.

Efforts were afoot to defuse the conflict and a tribal jirga met civil and military authorities in Miramshah and also held talks with militant commander Hafiz Gul Bahadar.

“Both sides want peace. It is in our interest to restore peace. Fighting is not an option. This could cause instability and mass exodus,” Maulvi Gul Ramzan, a member of the peace jirga told Dawn in Peshawar on phone from Miramshah.

It is still not clear which militant group triggered the clash by ambushing a military convoy, but Gul Ramzan said that Gul Bahadar had told him that his fighters were not involved.

The officials blamed the TTP for increasing attacks on security forces in North Waziristan but said it was the responsibility of Gul Bahadar, whose group had signed a peace agreement with the government, to ensure that their area was not used by outsiders.

Because of the clashes dozens of families had moved to Bannu or neighbouring Afghanistan, fearing the situation could lead to a full-blown military operation.

AFP adds: Militants in North Waziristan on Tuesday distributed pamphlets pledging a war to mark the first anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden, albeit a week late.

Masked militants armed with assault rifles handed out copies of the pamphlet from pick-up vehicles in Miramshah.

“Let us pledge today that we will continue our jihad and sacrifice our lives and property in the way of Allah like Sheikh Osama did,” it said.

Meanwhile, Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani visited Corps Headquarters in Peshawar. He also visited the military hospital to enquire after the health of the injured soldiers.


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