Militants, troops clash at border
Many tribesmen were thought to be Islamic students.
MIRAN SHAH, Pakistan (AP) -- Pakistan's army retaliated with helicopter gunships and artillery after pro-Taliban tribesmen clashed with security forces Saturday near the Afghan border. At least 49 people were killed in the fighting, a spokesman said.
Anger has been stirring among the tribesmen since a military strike on a suspected Al-Qaida camp earlier this week in the nearby village of Saidgi.
Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan, the army spokesman, said 25 militants were killed in Miran Shah and 21 in Mir Ali, but he added the toll could be higher. Three government troops also died and about 10 were wounded, he said.
Intercepts of radio communications between militants involved in the fighting in the towns of Miran Shah and Mir Ali in North Waziristan tribal region suggested 80 or more fighters had died, security and intelligence officials said on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to comment to the press.
The violence came as President Bush visited Islamabad and voiced solidarity with Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf in fighting terrorism.
Tribal regions problematic
Pakistan has deployed about 80,000 troops along the Afghan frontier but has failed to establish government control in tribal regions that have resisted outside influence for centuries.
Waziristan is known as a hotbed of Al-Qaida and Taliban militants who draw support from the local Pashtun tribal people. Many of the rebellious tribesmen involved in Saturday's unrest were believed to be Islamic students who are sympathetic with the hard-line Taliban militia.
Saturday's fighting began in Mir Ali, when tribesmen opened fire on vehicles carrying paramilitary rangers, an army officer said.
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