As tensions with US grow, Pakistan kills 100 militants
ISLAMABAD - Pakistani forces killed up to 100 Al Qaeda-linked militants in fierce clashes near the Afghan border yesterday, a security official said, as tensions grew with the United States over how to tackle the militants' strongholds.
An intensifying insurgency in Afghanistan has piled pressure on Pakistan to go after militants operating from sanctuaries in remote enclaves on its side of the border. It has also led to a sharp increase in US strikes on militants in Pakistan.
The new government in Islamabad says it is committed to the campaign against militancy, launched after the Sept. 11 attacks seven years ago, but bans incursions by US troops.
In the latest fighting in the northwestern Bajaur region, where some analysts believe top Al Qaeda leaders have been hiding, the security forces fought pitched battles with the militants loyal to a local commander Qari Zia-ur-Rehman.
"Eighty to 100 militants were killed in Bajaur today. Most of them are foreigners," the official said on condition of anonymity. He said the nationality of the foreigners was being ascertained.
He said two soldiers were also killed in the fighting
The three days of fighting in the region has brought the death toll to over 100. Separately, the security forces have killed eight militants in the northwestern Swat Valley, a military spokesman said.
Bajaur has been scene of one of the heaviest battles in recent weeks in which more than 600 militants have been killed.
Militants in Bajaur regularly cross into Afghanistan to attack Western troops and government forces there.
Violence in Afghanistan has soared over the past two years as Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters have regrouped. The US military said on Wednesday it was not winning there and would revise its strategy to combat militant havens in Pakistan.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai backed the new US strategy, but NATO said it would not join any cross-border US raids.
Pakistan's army chief General Ashfaq Kayani has said his country would not allow foreign troops to conduct operations on its soil.
The Times report said Bush's orders reflect an American view that Pakistan lacks the will and ability to combat militants in the border sanctuaries.
US commandos carried out a ground assault in Pakistan's South Waziristan, a sanctuary for Al Qaeda operatives, last week, the first known incursion into Pakistan by US troops since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.