Waziristan clashes leave 20 dead

06 Apr 2006

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MIRAMSHAH, April 5: Security forces have killed 16 miscreants and apprehended 19 others in North Waziristan Agency, says a military statement issued in Peshawar on Wednesday. However, militants have denied the claim of the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) and said four soldiers and five militants had been killed in overnight attacks and subsequent military action in two different places in the North Waziristan Agency on Tuesday night and Wednesday. Five army men were injured in the fight.

Bodies of eight miscreants killed in the operation had been retrieved, while the fleeing militants had managed to either bury or carry the bodies of others away, the press release added.

Clashes erupted after militants attacked the security forces in Shawal and Datakhel areas on Tuesday night, official sources said.

They said four soldiers had been killed and five others wounded in the attacks.

Cobra helicopters, which were ready at a military base in the adjacent Bannu district, also took part in the operation and pounded the militants’ positions in Shawal valley.

Sources said the forest stretch covering a big part of the Shawal valley was considered a stronghold of the militants. The area remained under heavy artillery fire for more than seven hours.

Gun battle started early this morning after militants attacked a checkpoint in Manra area of Shawal on Tuesday night, which left four soldiers dead and three others wounded.

Following the overnight attack, troops backed by helicopters and artillery launched intense operation in the mountainous area.

Officials said the gun battle had begun at 6am and continued till 2pm, during which the Cobra helicopters had heavily bombed militants’ hideouts.

Heavy shelling had forced non-combatants to shift to safe places, a source said. Security forces, the ISPR said, had destroyed huge cache of arms and ammunition during the search operation of suspected compounds.

Militants carried out another attack in Datakhel area, some 25 kilometres west of Miramshah. Sources said militants had fired rockets on a fort and wounded two paramilitary soldiers.

The injured have been identified as Hawaldar Mohammad Hayat and Sepoy Mohammad Shafiq, who were shifted to a military hospital in Bannu by helicopters.

However, Tariq Jamil, spokesman for the wanted cleric Mualana Sadiq Noor, had denied the official claims about the casualties and arrest of the militants.

“Our Mujahideen are safe and the government’s claims are baseless,” Tariq Jamil told Dawn in Wana on phone from an undisclosed location. He vowed that Mujahideen would continue activities against the security forces unless army stopped operation against tribesmen.