Pakistani soldiers and tribal fighters in North Waziristan are observing an unofficial ceasefire while tribesmen bury their fallen killed in air raids. At least 250, including dozens of soldiers, have died and thousands have fled in five days of fierce battles. Residents say up to 50 were killed in Oct. 9 air strikes, some while shopping at a village bazaar. (AlJazeera, Oct. 10) The fighting pitted militants of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Pashtun tribal force led by Baitullah Meshud against Pakistani army and paramilitary forces. A jirga of leading North Waziristan clerics led by a former member of the National Assembly, Maulana Nek Zaman Haqqani, following day-long negotiations received the bodies of 30 slain soldiers from the jihadis and handed them over to military officials. The clashes, centered on the Mir Ali area, started after the Uzbek fighters ambushed a security forces convoy Oct. 6. (Rediff, India, Oct. 10)
Pakistani “Taliban” leader Baitullah Mehsud has threatened to dispatch a “suicide squad” to greet Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister who is returning from exile this month to participate in parliamentary elections.
On Oct. 9, a helicopter accompanying strongman Pervez Musharraf on a visit to Kashmir crashed in flames, killing four on board and injuring the general’s spokesman. The crash revived memories of how the country’s previous military ruler, Gen Zia-ul Haq, died in an unexplained explosion on board a Pakistani military helicopter in 1988. (UK Telegraph, Oct. 10)
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