Troops shell militants in tribal area

March 10, 2006

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MIRALI, March 9: Troops pounded a remote village with artillery after militants fired rockets at security forces on Thursday, officials said, as clashes along the Afghan border flared up again.

The attack targeted Norak village, five kilometres west of Mirali in the embattled tribal region of North Waziristan, but it was not immediately clear if there were any casualties, a senior security official said.

“Rockets were fired on the army and paramilitary positions from this village and this morning the artillery has responded,” said the official.

Ovenight, militants fired several rockets at checkpoints and the army’s base in the region’s main town of Miramshah but there were no immediate reports of any casualties.

Local officials said a paramilitary soldier was wounded when militants fired a rocket at a vehicle carrying water to a checkpoint in Mirali.

Miramshah was still under the control of security forces following bloody battles last weekend in which around 140 militants and five soldiers were killed.

Authorities relaxed a curfew for five hours on Wednesday to allow people to buy vital supplies, residents said.

Pro-Taliban militants ambushed the vehicles of the top officials in North Waziristan late Tuesday near Norak, killing a guard and injuring two others.

The fighting in North Waziristan, which started on Saturday as US President US George W. Bush was visiting Islamabad, is the fiercest in a two-and-a-half-year campaign by Pakistani forces in the tribal areas.

Hundreds of Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters have sneaked across the mountainous border in the past four years, finding support from conservative Pakistani tribesmen.

Pakistan launched military operations in the tribal areas in October 2003 and has more than 80,000 troops along the border.

Another report quoting a security official says tribal militants launched rockets on a military post on Thursday in a volatile region near the Afghan border, killing two paramilitary soldiers and wounding another.

The attack happened before dawn on the outskirts of Mirali, said the official.—Agencies