May 25, 2007 / 7:02 AM / 12 years ago

Pakistani elders resign over raid on militants

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistani tribal elders overseeing a pact between the government and pro-Taliban militants have resigned over a government raid on a militant camp launched without their consent, an elder said on Friday.

Pakistan, under U.S. pressure to crack down harder on the hard-line Islamists, says the pact in North Waziristan along the Afghan border has helped isolate militants. Critics say it has provided them with a sanctuary and has failed to curb attacks into Afghanistan.

It was not immediately clear what impact the resignation of the elders from a council overseeing the peace pact would have on the agreement.

The elders handed in their resignation to the political agent, the top government official in North Waziristan, on Thursday to protest over Tuesday’s raid on an Islamist training camp.

“The government sent us for negotiations with the mujahideen (militants) but they launched an attack before we returned and submitted our report,” Malik Nasrullah Khan, the head of the 15-member tribal council, told Reuters.

“Under the agreement, the government had to take us into confidence before conducting any operation. They didn’t do so and that’s why we’re resigning.”

Four militants were killed in the attack on the camp in Zargarkhel, 25 km (15 miles) south of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan.

The military said security forces had attacked the camp after the militants refused to surrender and opened fire, despite the elders’ efforts.

It was the first time security forces had attacked militants in North Waziristan since the September pact.

Militants are expected to meet in coming days to consider their strategy, a militant source said.

A large number of al Qaeda militants, most of them Uzbeks, Chechens and Arabs, fled to Pakistan after U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in late 2001.

Beginning in 2003, Pakistani security forces launched a series of offensives in North and South Waziristan to drive out the foreign militants as part of its efforts in the U.S.-led war on terrorism.

But the government later struck peace deals aimed at reinvigorating traditional powers of elders of the ethnic Pashtun tribes, which live on both sides of the border, and marginalizing the militants.

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