19 killed in fresh violence in Pakistan

June 24th, 2008 - 3:00 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Benazir Bhutto
Islamabad, June 24 (DPA) At least 19 people were killed and more than a dozen injured in fresh clashes in militant-dominated north-west Pakistan, media reports said Tuesday. Fierce fighting erupted between troops loyal to top Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud and pro-government tribesmen Monday when militants attacked the members of a peace committee in the town Jandola, the gateway to the restive South Waziristan tribal district.

Up to 12 people were killed and 10 wounded in ensuing gun battles that continued during the night, the English-language Dawn News television channel reported.

Both sides used heavy weapons and rocket-propelled grenades to take on each other’s targets.

Mehsud’s men reportedly took over Jandola and also kidnapped 15 members of the government-backed peace committee, which was working to drive out pro-Taliban elements from the main towns of the region.

A lull in the fighting was observed Tuesday morning when government security forces moved into Jandola to carry out a clean-up operation.

Mehsud, the key Taliban commander in Pakistan’s tribal belt, has been blamed for dozens of suicide attacks over the last 15 months, including the one in December which killed former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

He, however, ordered his followers to halt raids on security forces in March when Pakistan’s new government offered peace talks. But the fragile ceasefire did not succeed in putting an end to violence in the region.

Separately, one militant was killed and three were injured when security forces retaliated against an attack on a military convoy in the Sambat area of the Swat district early Tuesday morning.

The security personnel suffered no casualties in the ambush, officials speaking on condition of anonymity said.

A curfew has been declared in the area for an indefinite period.

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