WANA, Oct 4: Militants in South Waziristan have agreed to a 10-day ceasefire with security forces to give a chance to mediators to resolve the issue of foreign militants in the troubled tribal region , official and tribal sources have confirmed.
A source told Dawn that commanders of the tribal militants assured a 19-member mediation committee that they would hold fire for 10 days to give them a chance to help resolve the contentious issue of the presence of foreign militants in the region.
The cease fire came into force from Monday night, a highly credible source said on the condition of anonymity. A senior government official confirmed the cease fire offer and said that security forces would not initiate any action unless provoked.
"Our forces reserve the right to retaliate if fired upon," the official said, tacitly acknowledging that the government would also hold fire during the interregnum period.
"The government has generally pursued a policy of not initiating any firing. It's the militants who have been firing at our positions and targeting installations without any provocations," the official said also requesting he not be named.
A leading member of the mediation committee told Dawn that commanders of the tribal militants - Abdullah Mehsud and Baitullah Mehsud - agreed to their request to cease fire for 10 days to enable them to carry their peace efforts forward and resolve the thorny issue of foreign militants in the region.
"They were very reasonable," one of the tribal mediators said. "They said that they would hold fire for ten days and would communicate the orders to their comrades in the length and breadth of Waziristan not to attack security forces. They have given their word and I hope they stick to their promise," he said.
The meeting between the tribal mediators and militant commanders took place at Kotkai near Jandola on Sunday that lasted for about nine-and-a-half hours from 12.00 in the noon till 9.30pm.
He said that the mediators had conveyed the cease fire offer to the authorities who agreed not to initiate any new round of fighting and respect the agreement," he said.
The source said that the mediators would try and push the cease fire to cover the month of Ramazan to gain enough time to hold discussions on the presence of foreign militants in the tribal region.
"The militant commanders are non-committal on the issue of foreign militants. Obviously, there is a lack of confidence and we want to continue to work with them to help resolve this issue that has brought destruction and bloodshed to us," the source said.
He said that the mediators would meet the militants again to push the duration of cease fire beyond the month of Ramazan. In his previous meeting with mediators, Commander Abdullah Mehsud, an ex-Guantanamo prisoner, had demanded the security forces relocated to peacetime positions for any negotiations with the authorities to move forward.
In what appears to be major concessions and 'good-will gesture', the government has already pulled out army troops from Shakai and other areas. The sources said that the government had also decided to make some 're-adjustment' depending on the security situation in South Waziristan.
"Authorities will mull over the option of reducing deployment of security forces if the situation improves. However, in case of deterioration of state of affairs, the government will reinforce the troops already deployed in the region," the source said.
The ceasefire will come into effect after overnight skirmishes between security forces and militants in the region on Sunday and Monday morning. The tribal mediator explained that the ceasefire word had not gone to the ranks and file of the militants and that's why their commanders had sought to enforce the agreement from Monday night.
Dilawar Khan Wazir adds from Wana: At least four foreign militants were killed and seven soldiers wounded during clashes between the security forces and insurgents in the turbulent South Waziristan tribal region, military officials said on Monday.
Reports received from the area said that the militants carried out several attacks against the security forces in several parts of Laddah sub-division in the South Waziristan region on Sunday night.
Commander 11th Corps Lt-Gen Safdar Hussain also visited the troubled Laddah sub-division on Monday where he was briefed about the ongoing operation, officials said.
Residents said that the militants launched attacks against army troops and paramilitary forces in the area largely inhabited by the Mehsud tribe. The militants fired rockets and missiles on the security forces in Makin, Laddah Fort, Tiarza Fort, Asman Manza, Karwan Manza, Bosh Ghar, Sanga and Sam High school, they said.
The troops retaliated the attacks with artillery and machineguns from different locations, which led to about four hours exchange of heavy fire between the two sides.
A press release issued by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) in Peshawar said that at least four miscreants had been killed and many were injured in this mountainous part of South Waziristan.
The press release said that the miscreants started unprovoked rocket and mortar shelling on the forces which responded very swiftly, killing at least four miscreants.
The ISPR said that two of the four bodies of the miscreants had been retrieved, who were believed to be foreigners. An ISPR official also confirmed that seven soldiers had received injuries in the attack.
According to unconfirmed reports, the army troops had suffered casualties in the attack, but the numbers could not be ascertained. The following is the ISPR statement: Corps Commander, Peshawar, Lt-Gen Safdar Hussain has said that the government is giving political process every chance to succeed but the terrorists are out to sabotage it by resorting to unprovoked and indiscriminate firing on security forces.
Addressing troops at various places in North and South Waziristan Agencies on Monday, he said that it was a matter of satisfaction that the local population had realised that miscreants were playing havoc with their lives and were now cooperating with the government.
The corps commander visited the area where miscreants launched a major attack on positions of security forces early this morning and fired more than 50 rockets and mortars.
The security forces reacted swiftly and beaten back the attack and killed four terrorists all believed to be foreigners. The security forces have also recovered a huge quantity of weapons, arms and ammunitions, literature and audio cassettes from their hideouts in Karwan Manza area.
The troops also successfully gained control over a mountain reach that was occupied by the terrorists. "This realization and cooperation of the tribesmen will definitely help cleanse the area from unwanted elements," he said.
Earlier, on arrival at formation headquarters, the corps commander was given detailed briefing by local commanders regarding the security situation in the area.