Pakistan’s military is grappling with a deteriorating security situation along the Afghan border, amid a spike in attacks by pro-Taliban fighters and fears that al-Qaeda is regrouping in the region.
As the crisis continued, a bomb killed at least four people and wounded 10 more at a market in South Waziristan’s main town of Wana.
The bomb tore through a pharmacy on Sunday.
It apparently targeted Mita Khan, a tribal fighter who was wounded in the blast, an intelligence official said.
Khan is loyal to Maulvi Nazir, a pro-government tribal leader who has led deadly clashes to evict suspected Uzbek fighters from the area in the past, he said.
On Sunday, a delegation of some 60 tribal elders, religious leaders and local legislators met government officials in Wana, a day after talks with tribal fighters ended without signs of a breakthrough.
Major General Waheed Arshad, the army’s chief spokesman, said: “Their deliberation is going on. Now let’s wait and see what result it gets.
“Musharraf is shouting slogans of war against terror in order to win US support”
Ali Abu Hamza, Chichawatni, Pakistan
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The army says more than 150 soldiers have gone missing, trapped by fighting between pro-government tribesmen and Taliban-aligned fighters, although other officials say the troops were captured.
An intelligence official in the region told the Associated Press on Sunday that the fighters had seized 205 troops – 135 army soldiers and 70 paramilitary troops – as well as 20 military vehicles.
Ten other soldiers have been missing since late Saturday in Mohmand, another tribal area north of South Waziristan, Arshad said, but did not elaborate.
Zulfiqar Mehsud, a spokesman for tribal fighters in the region, claimed responsibility for the capture of soldiers both in South Waziristan and in Mohmand as retaliation for authorities violating a February 2005 peace deal.
‘In our prisons’
Mehsud, a purported spokesman for Baitullah Mehsud, a powerful tribal leader who has been called South Waziristan’s unofficial governor, said: “We have detained 300 security forces … they are our in prisons.
“Unless the government comes back to the agreement … there are no chances for the jirga [tribal council] to succeed.”
|“Unless the government comes back to the agreement … there are no chances for the jirga [tribal council] to succeed”
Zulfiqar Mehsud, spokesman for South Waziristan tribal leader Baitullah Mehsud
Under the deal, Baitullah was granted amnesty in return for his promise not to attack security forces or harbour foreign fighters.
Pakistan’s government had also agreed to end military activity in the region.
“The government should pull out army troops from the area and should not set up new security posts,” Mehsud said.
The pro-Taliban fighters are also demanding the release of 15 suspected fighters who have been arrested in Pakistan in recent weeks, the intelligence official said.
Arshad said that he was not aware of any demands from the fighters.
He blamed them for violating the earlier peace deal by launching attacks on security forces.
Meanwhile, anti-government fighters have warned Pakistani soldiers to leave the region in pamphlets distributed in Mir Ali, a town in the neighbouring North Waziristan tribal area.
The pamphlets warned of suicide bombings against security forces.
“Now we will slaughter anyone we catch and we will rest only when we turn this place into Falluja,” the pamphlets said, referring to the war-ravaged Iraqi city.