250 Pro-Taliban Dead; Pak Army Calls Ceasefire

By Gretchen Peters And Habibullah Khan

Oct 10, 2007 11:45am

A day after Pakistani warplanes pounded villages in the volatile tribal belt, killing as many 250 pro-Taliban militants and civilians, the army called a dawn-to-dusk ceasefire to let residents bury their dead and seek medical attention for the wounded. Thousands of families have fled the Mir Ali district of North Waziristan since the massive bombardment began two days ago. Following on four weeks of sporadic fighting, the militants had holed up in nine villages around the district, according to locals. Mirage fighter jets and Cobra gunship helicopters bombed the militants’ hideouts. No high-value targets were taken out in the strike, said Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad. Rather the attack targeted a group of guerrillas who had been attacking the military. A local shopkeeper described the airstrike as intense and prolonged. Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage. "The sky lit up, and the whole ground shook," said Mohammed Sharif. Villagers were streaming out of the area on the banks of the River Tochi to Bannu, a town in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier province that borders the tribal belt. Sharif said as much as 90 percent of Mir Ali’s population, which he estimated to be about 45,000, had fled the area. Mohammed Jamil, a local resident heading to Bannu with his family, said, "we can’t stay here. There is no food, no water, no electricity." Residents were scared, he said, and angry at the Pakistan military. Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad, the military spokesman, said villagers should redirect their anger at the militants who he said were using them as human shields. "The fact is that when the militants use civilian homes to hide in, civilian casualties are going to be a consequence," he said. "It is the fault of the militants that these civilians get killed." Islamabad has been struggling to contain a widening Taliban insurgency across the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, a semi-autonomous region that borders Afghanistan. Critics have complained the Pakistan military normally hesitates to go after the militants and then eventually goes in with too much force, resulting in massive casualties. Click Here to Register for Blotter Alerts.

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