South Asia News
Renewed armed clashes kill at least 42 in Pakistan
Aug 14, 2008, 17:09 GMT
Islamabad - At least 42 people, including women and children, were killed in fresh clashes between insurgents and Pakistani security forces as the country celebrated its 61 years of independence from British rule on Thursday, officials and media reports said on Wednesday.
Eight people died when strayed mortar shells hit two houses in the tribal district of Bajaur, where government forces have been fighting pro-Taliban militants for the past week.
'Among the dead are six people, including three women, of the same family,' a security official told on condition of anonymity.
The clashes in Bajaur area started last week when the country's security forces began a major offensive against the rebels, launching cross border attacks on US-led international forces in Afghanistan.
Around 200 people, including security personnel, Taliban and civilians, have reportedly been killed so far in the clashes.
Military spokesman Major Murad Khan claimed that the military had targeted two vehicles carrying eight militants on Thursday. There was no independent confirmation available that the local Taliban leader Maulvi Faqir Mohammed was among the dead.
Thousands of people have been forced to flee the area because of the ongoing fighting.
'According to our figures, around half of the population, more than 100,000 people, have left their homes and moved to the safer areas in North-West Frontier Province,' said the additional chief secretary for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Habibullah Khan.
Eighteen people died in the neighboring tribal district of Kurram Agency where the firefight between Shiite and Sunni tribesmen has virtually brought life to a standstill.
'Thirty more people were injured in the clashes in which the sides used heavy weapons,' a report in the Geo news channel said. Around 200 people have died in the eight-days of firefight between the rival groups.
Separately, six people died in a landmine explosion in south- western province of Balochistan, where ethnic Baloch tribes have been carrying out an armed campaign against the government for the last four years for greater shares in revenues generated from the natural resources in the area and autonomy.