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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 October, 2004, 10:20 GMT 11:20 UK
South Waziristan ceasefire agreed
By Zaffar Abbas
BBC correspondent in Islamabad

Pakistani troops in South Waziristan
Pakistan launched major operations in South Waziristan in March
Pakistani security forces and Islamic militants in the tribal region of South Waziristan have agreed an unofficial 10-day ceasefire.

The ceasefire, from Monday night, is to allow a group of mediators to work for a settlement to end fighting.

However, the ceasefire suffered a blow on Tuesday when a land mine exploded, killing at least one soldier.

The army began major operations against al-Qaeda fighters and tribesmen supporting them in the region in March.

The army says it has killed 150 militants since then. The Pakistani military has lost more than 100 troops.

Mediation

Islamabad wants the tribesmen to hand over hundreds of suspected al-Qaeda fighters living in the area, but local tribal leaders have refused, saying the few foreigners living there are former mujahideen not involved in any militant activity.

The ceasefire seems to be holding apart from the incident on Tuesday morning in which a military vehicle hit a landmine, killing at least one soldier and injuring seven.

The artillery and mortars that have fired over the past few weeks have fallen silent and helicopter gun ships have stopped flying over the mountains where most of the armed militants are believed to be hiding.

The ceasefire is the latest in a series of efforts by local politicians to find a negotiated settlement.

One of South Waziristan's two MPs is leading the group that is mediating between Pakistani authorities and tribal militants.

However, even though the two sides have welcomed the move, they are standing firm on their respective positions.

The Pakistani security forces say the military operation is aimed at flushing out foreign militants and will continue as long as there are al-Qaeda suspects in the area.

The tribal militants insist the foreigners in the area are not linked to al-Qaeda and should not be evicted.

Earlier efforts to achieve peace by persuading tribesmen to register foreigners with the authorities were not successful.

Local politicians said tribesmen feared the authorities might use the registration to arrest or extradite some of the foreigners.



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