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Pakistan frees 50 tribesmen to calm militancy

Written by: Staff

Miranshah (Pakistan), June 29: Pakistani authorities today released 50 tribesmen in a gesture meant to calm pro-Taliban militants fighting the army in the North Waziristan region bordering Afghanistan, an official said.

''Our new chief checked their files and ordered their release after finding them innocent,'' the region's deputy administrator, Iqbal Khattak, told Reuters.

Pakistani forces have killed more than 300 militants, including 75 foreigners, in the area since mid 2005, when they switched their hunt for al Qaeda from neighbouring South Waziristan on the Afghan border.

The peace gesture in Waziristan comes at the height of a Taliban insurgency in southern Afghanistan, but there has been mounting unease in Pakistan that military operations in the tribal areas were storing up even worse problems in the future.

Earlier this week, a militant commander announced a month-long ceasefire in the region and called for the government to dismantle all new checkposts and return troops to their camps in order to allow the tribal police to take over.

He also wanted detained tribesmen freed, and sacked local officials reinstated.

Pakistan has some 80,000 regular army troops on the frontier with Afghanistan, most of them deployed in North and South Waziristan where al Qaeda-linked militants have been operating alongside Taliban and tribal sympathisers.


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