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Central & South Asia
Civilians killed in Pakistan battle
Military jets bombard North Waziristan as the army clashes with tribal fighters.
Last Modified: 10 Oct 2007 10:30 GMT
At least 47 Pakistani soldiers have been killed
during the four days of fierce fighting [AFP]
Dozens of civilians, including women and children, have been killed as Pakistani military jets targeted the positions of tribal fighters in North Waziristan, residents say.

A military spokesman said that "militant hideouts" were targeted in Tuesday's air raids but local residents said a market had been hit killing dozens of people.
At least 250 people, including 47 soldiers, have died in four days of fighting in the tribal region.

On Wednesday, thousands of tribesmen gathered in the village of Epi to bury 50 people killed when about one dozen explosions destroyed shops and homes, residents said.
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Abdul Sattar, a grocery shop owner, told the Associated Press news agency earlier that he had counted more than 60 dead and 150 injured after the bombings.

"Some did not have heads, hands or legs," Sattar said.

Residents of the village, about 4km from the town of Mir Ali where the fighting has been centred, said they were continuing to pull bodies from the rubble. 

'Militant targets'

"The strikes were conducted on militant targets and 50 militants were killed," Major General Waheed Arshad, a military spokesman, said on Wednesday.

The tribal fighters were using civilian homes to launch attacks on the security forces, he said.

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Al Jazeera talks to the civilian victims of the fighting in Waziristan

Security officials in the northwestern city of Peshawar said that another 50 fighters linked to the Taliban and al-Qaeda had been killed in Tuesday's attacks and a similar number wounded.

Thousands of families on Tuesday fled Mir Ali - the region's second largest town with about 50,000 inhabitants - and outlying villages, making their way on foot, in tractor trailers and cars.

Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder in Islamabad said the entire area had been cut off for about one week.

"There are no supplies getting in, we are told there are water shortages, we are told there is no electricty in the area. It is a desperate situation indeed," he said.

"People are evacuating their wounded on beds. They are carrying those beds four people at a time, walking over very large stretches of territory, 50km sometimes, just to get to the nearest medical facility." 
 
Homes destroyed

Sher Khan, a resident, told Reuters news agency he estimated that nearly 90 per cent of families had left the town, leaving behind a few men to guard their belongings.
   

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"The main bazaar of Mir Ali is sealed by the army," Khan said. "All shops are closed. We have nothing to eat. That's why I have sent my family to Bannu."

Other residents said that most people had abandoned their homes after more than 50 houses were damaged.
 
Faridullah Khan, a local tribesman, said: "Our homes have been damaged severely, most of the families have migrated to relatives' homes in neighbouring towns."

Arshad
said air raids earlier destroyed most houses around Essori, a village near Mir Ali where most of the fighting was concentrated.

The military has said that the fierce fighting broke out on Sunday after a roadside bomb detonated next to a lorry carrying paramilitary troops.
 
Taliban supporters

Many Taliban and al-Qaeda members who fled to the region after US-led forces drove them out of Afghanistan in late 2001 have found support in the tribal areas.

There has been a rise in fighting since tribal groups in the semi-autonomous region scrapped a peace deal with under which they would have taken greater responsibility for security in return for a withdrawal of Pakistani government forces.

Around 90,000 government troops are deployed in the area but have failed to stop the violence.

In neighbouring South Waziristan, more than 200 Pakistani soldiers have been held since late August. Their captors are demanding an end to all military operations in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

General Pervez Musharraf, the president who is waiting for the supreme court to rule on the legality of his controversial re-election on Saturday, has said "terrorism" is one of the biggest challenges to the country.

But the conflict has reinforced opposition among many Pakistanis, mainly in the conservative northwest, to Musharraf over his support for the US's "war on terror".
Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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