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Clashes in Tank leave six people dead

May 17, 2007

TANK, May 16: Six people were killed and 15 others, including four policemen, wounded in clashes between personnel of law-enforcement agencies and Islamic militants in troubled Tank city on Wednesday, officials said.

Clashes in different parts of the city raged for more than two hours and both sides used rockets and light cannons, causing collateral damage to bazaars and residential areas, residents said. The Tank district is adjacent to lawless South Waziristan Agency.

Witnesses said that some unidentified people lobbed hand-grenades at district courts where security forces had set up checkpoints. The attack did not hurt anybody but triggered panic in the city.

Following the grenade attack, the militants, brandishing rockets and heavy machine-guns, moved into the town and started targeting security forces.

Residents claimed that paramilitary forces and police, backed by armed personnel carriers, opened indiscriminate fire on residential areas and shops.

“The number of attackers was about 40 who challenged the security forces and went back to their area,” a resident of the area said. People alleged that security forces fired on civilians instead of targeting militants who were usually seen roaming freely in the city.

The residents complained that they were not allowed by personnel of the security forces to take the injured to the hospital. The curfew, imposed on Monday, was ineffective as militants reportedly sneaked into the settled area from the tribal area.

According to witnesses, a rocket landed in Rizwan Grain market of the city on Tank-Dera road, killing five civilians, including two brothers, on the spot. Doctors said that 15 wounded people were taken to the government-run hospital in the city. A woman also received bullet injuries.Those killed in the clashes have been identified as Talab, Niaz Muhammad, Sheikh Rafiq, Ahmad Jan and Ghulam Farid and Abdul Wahid.

Sources said that police raided on the Mall Mandi road, Wazirabad, and other localities of the city and arrested 25 people.

AGENCIES ADD: “The militants fired several rockets from three directions and one of them hit a group of people waiting at the bus stand, killing five civilians,” local district police chief Zulfiqar Cheema told AFP.

“Three policemen were injured when they were fired at by militants near district courts. Police have located a group of about 15 armed militants and we are trying to nab them,” he said.

The clashes began when assailants hurled hand grenades at a police station in the town and fired mortars and rockets at police and paramilitary units, drawing fire in return, witnesses said.

The situation was tense and markets were closed as heavy gunfire continued in the town until late afternoon, residents said.

The fighting also damaged power and telephone lines.