Two students die in clash between militants

March 20, 2007

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TANK, March 19: Two school students were killed and six others injured when their bus was caught in crossfire between local Taliban fighters and Uzbek militants in the restive South Waziristan agency on Monday, witnesses and local people told Dawn.

They said that the bus of the Musa Public School taking the students to their homes came under fire at Jaghundai area near the Pak-Afghan border.

It is not clear the bus was hit by bullets or a rocket.

According to information received in Tank, tension had been mounting between local Taliban and Uzbek militants in the past three days after the killing of an Arab militant.

According to local people, Taliban leaders suspected involvement of Uzbek militants in the killing of the Arab national.

“The Uzbeks tried to clarify the situation to the Taliban leaders and claimed that he (the Arab militant) was killed during a training session when a bullet hit him,” they said, adding that the main Wana-Azam Warsak road had been occupied by Uzbek militants belonging to the Tahir Yuldashev group and local Taliban led by Maulvi Nazir had taken positions on nearby hills and thoroughfares.

They said that vehicular traffic on the road was suspended at about 1pm.

They also said that two Uzbeks had been killed on Saturday night and the Uzbek fighters suspected that local Taliban militants had carried out the killing.

They said the issue caused extreme tension between the two groups and there had been rumours that an important personality from Afghanistan was due in the agency to pacify the two groups.

A clash on March 6 between local tribesmen of Darikhel tribe and Uzbek militants had left 17 people, including 12 foreigners, dead.

AGENCIES ADD: The latest violence erupted in Shin Warsak, a village seven kilometres west of Wana, the region's main town.

Both sides fired rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars at each other, residents said.

“The situation is very tense,” said a resident of Wana who declined to be identified.

“I counted 10 wounded tribesmen were brought to Wana,” he said, adding he had no idea about casualties on the other side.