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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Pakistani clashes leave 15 dead

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan - Armed tribesmen attacked suspected Uzbek militants in northwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, triggering a battle in which 15 people were killed, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

A group of about 60 tribesmen attacked the Uzbeks as they drove through a village near Wana, the main town in the South Waziristan tribal area, one intelligence official said.

Twelve militants, two tribesmen and an Afghan shopkeeper were killed in the ensuing battle, the officials said on condition of anonymity because of the secretive nature of their job.

One official identified the two dead tribesmen as brothers of Saeedullah Khan, a tribal elder who has been targeted in failed militant attacks in the past because of his suspected ties with the Pakistani government.

Hundreds of Arab, Central Asian and Afghan militants suspected of having links with the Taliban and al-Qaida fled to South Waziristan and the adjoining North Waziristan region after the U.S.-led invasion of
Afghanistan in late 2001.

Under intense U.S. pressure, Pakistani troops have fought a string of bloody battles in the border region since 2004 to root out militants hiding there.

During a visit to Pakistan last week, U.S. Vice President
Dick Cheney expressed concern to Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf over al-Qaida regrouping inside the tribal regions and an expected Taliban spring offensive in neighboring Afghanistan.
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