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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 April 2007, 09:10 GMT 10:10 UK
Tribesmen 'oust' foreign fighters
By Barbara Plett
BBC News, South Waziristan

Militiamen in South Waziristan
There are many militants in the tribal areas
The Pakistani army says local tribes have expelled foreign fighters from part of the remote border region near the town of Wana close to Afghanistan.

It brought journalists to an area of South Waziristan to back up its claim after weeks of fighting there between Pashtun tribesmen and Uzbek militants.

But there was no way of independently verifying the claims.

Pakistan is under pressure from the West to remove al-Qaeda and Taleban activists from the area.

Internal feuding

The army general in charge of South Waziristan told us that tribal fighters had cleared the Uzbeks out of the valleys surrounding the main town of Wana.

map

He said the foreign militants had been pushed back into the mountains on the Afghan border.

But reporters were not able to verify this by speaking to locals, and the former battlegrounds were only pointed out to them from an observation post.

Nor is it clear whether the fighting will decrease the infiltration of militants into Afghanistan, about which Nato is so concerned.

It was triggered by internal feuding and analysts say the Uzbeks are not directly linked to the either the Taleban or al-Qaeda and had little role in the Afghan insurgency.

Protection money

The South Waziristan commander, Maj Gen Gul Mohammad, said ridding the region of foreign militants was possible only with tribal support.

Previous military operations failed because they had alienated the tribes.

Pakistan-Afghanistan border
The area is renowned for its inhospitable terrain

Now, he said, the tribesmen were ready to oust the foreign fighters, including those belonging to al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taleban.

But this is by no means clear.

Locals say the tribes went after the Uzbeks because of particular incidents.

Arabs allied with al-Qaeda are entrenched in the tribal areas, and they pay tribesmen good money for protection.

And the Afghan Taleban are not seen as foreign - they are Pashtuns, like the locals, and have a lot of support here for their insurgency in Afghanistan.




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