Twelve more killed in sectarian violence in Pakistan

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PARACHINAR, Pakistan, Nov 19 (Reuters) At least a dozen people were killed in fighting between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslim tribesmen in a Pakistani region near the Afghan border today, taking the death toll to more than 100 in four days of clashes.

Eight people were killed and 18 were wounded when a mortar bomb exploded in a bazaar in the Kurram tribal region, residents said.

Army helicopter gunships pounded militant positions on the outskirts of the main town of Parachinar, killing four people.

Residents said soldiers were deployed in Parachinar and nearby areas while the government prepared to send a delegation of tribal elders and clerics to bring peace to the area.

Military officials were unavailable for comment.

Sectarian violence has bedevilled Pakistan since the 1980s and Kurram has a long history of such clashes.

Most of the ethnic Pashtun tribesmen in Kurram are Shi'ite, although most Pashtuns, who inhabit both sides of the rugged Afghan-Pakistan frontier are Sunnis.

The outbreak of sectarian violence in Kurram coincided with the army's preparations for a major operation to crush a militant movement in Swat, a valley in North West Frontier Province (NWFP) where hundreds of people have been killed in clashes with security forces in the past few weeks.

President Pervez Musharraf, a crucial US ally, imposed emergency rule in Pakistan on November 3, saying it would reinforce the fight against Islamist militants threatening the country's stability.

REUTERS SYU PK KP1803

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