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Pakistani tribesmen killed for brokering militant surrender
Updated: 2004-10-27 20:42

Fourteen tribal leaders trying to help Pakistani forces organise the surrender of Al-Qaeda-linked militants in a remote region near the Afghan border have been killed, a military spokesman said.

Fourteen tribal leaders trying to help Pakistani forces organise the surrender of Al-Qaeda-linked militants in a remote region near the Afghan border have been killed. [Reuters]

Another six people were injured in the incident, Major General Shaukat Sultan told AFP on Wednesday, laying the blame for the deaths on a militant rocket attack.

"The casualties were caused by miscreants," Shaukat said, adding that militants had fired another 42 rockets into the area overnight.

However another tribal elder who said he was present during the tragedy, Azizullah Mahsud, claimed the military was responsible, and local press reports raised the prospect of a "friendly fire" mistake.

The incident occurred Tuesday in the tribal town of Sheikh Ziarat near Spinkai Raghzai in the troubled South Waziristan region where Pakistani troops are engaged in a hunt for Al-Qaeda-militants and their local sympathisers.

Pakistani troops stepped up their offensive after another leader of the Mahsud tribe, Abdullah Mahsud, masterminded the kidnapping of two Chinese engineers in the region on October 9.

One of the engineers was killed and another rescued safely when commandoes launched a raid on the kidnappers, in which all five hostage takers also died.

Abdullah Mahsud, a one-legged militant who spent time under US detention at Guantanamo Bay, was orchestrating events from another location when the commando raid took place and has since avoided the military dragnet.

In a separate incident related to the same military offensive, Shaukat said security forces shot dead three suspected militants after engaging them in a close-combat encounter on Wednesday.

The clash erupted when troops flagged a passenger van during a search operation in Azam Warsak area of South Waziristan region, Shaukat said.

Five people got out of the van but a sixth opened fire and they all tried to flee the cordon, according to Shaukat.

"Security forces responded immediately killing three miscreants. Three others were injured and they are with the security forces," he said.

Military officials have said around 250 militants, including 100 foreigners, and more than 170 soldiers have been killed in the tribal region offensive since March.

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