WANA, April 10: Authorities in South Waziristan on Tuesday declared the Wana region clear of Uzbek militants and said steps were being taken to ensure that they did not return to the area.

“It’s now almost clear,” South Waziristan administrator Hussainzada Khan told Dawn. “Barring a few incidents, Wana region is now virtually free of Uzbeks,” he said. The claim could not be independently verified.Mr Khan said tribal volunteers had cleared Zyara Leetha after flushing out Uzbeks from their last stronghold of Azam Warsak.

Anti-Uzbek militant commander Maulvi Mohammad Nazir held a jirga in Azam Warsak on Tuesday.

The well-attended jirga announced that anyone found sheltering Uzbeks would be fined Rs1 million and his house would be demolished.

The jirga was marked by the beating of the drum and traditional dances, culture events banned since militants took control of the region about five years ago.

One source alleged that tribal volunteers searching homes occupied by Uzbeks had taken away vehicles and other belongings. “The houses were well-stocked,” the source said.

A spokesman for Maulvi Nazir, in a statement faxed to the media, accused the Uzbeks of killing over 200 tribal elders and committing crimes ranging from stealing cars to kidnapping for ransom and robbery.

The spokesman also accused Uzbek militants led by Qari Tahir Yaldashev of being agents of foreign powers, having killed 80 Turkmen ‘mujahideen’ in Wana and refusing to take part in the Afghan jihad.

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