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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 March 2007, 16:49 GMT
Pakistan rebel clashes continue
Gun position at the high altitude Mangrotai border post
The military denies troops are involved in the fighting
Sporadic fighting between local and foreign militants has continued in Pakistan near the Afghan border.

Unconfirmed reports say elders have negotiated a truce after four days of heavy shelling and firing west of Wana in the South Waziristan tribal area.

The authorities say about 100 people have been killed, most of them Uzbek fighters, but local sources put the death toll at more like 30.

Local militants and tribesman have encircled the foreigners, reports say.

It is the result of government policy that the local tribesmen are acting against foreign militants
Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao

They are said to have demanded the Uzbeks disarm and leave the area.

The conflict has focused attention on the hundreds of foreign fighters with alleged al-Qaeda links who took refuge in the tribal areas after the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

In recent peace deals with the government, the tribesmen had promised to either get rid of the foreigners or prevent them from fighting.

The Afghan government and Nato criticised the agreements for creating militant safe havens.

Alliances 'in flux'

Local sources say a number of people were killed when tribesmen ambushed a jeep of Uzbek militants on Thursday.

But the fighting has died down since Wednesday when both sides were said to be pounding each others' positions with heavy weapons.

map

Independent confirmation of the reports is extremely difficult as access to the area is restricted and telephones in the area are not working.

The BBC's Barbara Plett in Islamabad says almost all the information is coming from official sources, who talk about an uprising by local tribes against Uzbek militants.

They say this shows that the government strategy of pressing tribesmen to expel foreign fighters is working.

But other reports have spoken of an internal power struggle and say there are a mix of foreign and local fighters on both sides.

According to these reports, the conflict started after a local tribal commander blamed the Uzbeks for the death of an Arab militant allied to him.

Some reports say the army has joined the fight against the Uzbeks - something the government denies.

There are also rumours that a very senior Taleban leader has come from Afghanistan to try to broker a ceasefire.

Our correspondent says many of the militants in the tribal areas support the Taleban uprising against coalition forces in Afghanistan so it is not in the Taleban's interest to have them fighting each other.

Some of the foreign fighters are Arabs but most are Uzbeks who belong to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan - led by Tahir Yuldashev, our correspondent says.

Observers say this group does not have a history of links to al-Qaeda but, with the resurgence of the Taleban, militant alliances in the tribal areas are in flux.


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