More than 200 killed in Pakistan’s sectarian clashes (Lead)

August 17th, 2008 - 4:03 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Taliban
Islamabad, Aug 17 (DPA) Sectarian clashes raged in a remote tribal region of Pakistan Sunday, taking the death toll in 12 days of fighting to more than 200, officials said. At least 24 people were killed and dozens wounded in overnight gunfights between Sunni and Shia Muslims in the Kurram tribal district bordering Afghanistan, a senior official in the local administration said.

Most of the dead were pro-Taliban militants who had poured into different areas of predominantly Sunni Kurram district from the neighbouring North Waziristan tribal region.

“Rival factions have burned down at least three villages in Lower Kurram destroying a large number of houses,” the official said.

Members of the battling Toori and Mangal tribes are using heavy weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades and mortar guns, witnesses said.

The government Friday warned the warring tribesmen to halt the fighting by Monday or a military offensive would be launched to restore order.

The running clashes erupted last week when a tractor belonging to a Shia Toori tribesman was set on fire by his rivals.

Sectarian violence gripped Kurram in April 2007 and most parts of the district have been cut off from the rest of the country through land routes, triggering a severe shortage of food and medical supplies.

Four children died Saturday due to unavailability of medicine in a hospital in Parachinar, the main town of Kurram, according to the state-owned newswire Associated Press of Pakistan.

The road linking Parachinar with the neighbouring North-West Frontier Province was closed 10 months ago, leaving the town’s population of nearly 500,000 in a virtual state of siege.

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