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Extremist Violence in Northwestern Pakistan Leaves 22 Dead


Pro-Taliban extremists in northwestern Pakistan have killed 22 members of a pro-government tribe. The remote violence-plagued area borders the volatile tribal region of South Waziristan on the Afghan border, which is believed to be a safe haven for al-Qaida and Taliban fugitives. From Islamabad, Ayaz Gul reports.

Residents and local officials say that those murdered were among at least 27 members of the pro-government Bhittani tribe kidnapped by Taliban militants during a raid on the town of Jandola earlier this week.

District Coordination Officer Barkatullah Marwat told VOA by telephone that Taliban militants killed most of their captives and dumped their bodies just outside the town.

"We received about 22 dead bodies sent by Taliban and they have been handed over to their respective tribes for burial purposes," he said.

Marwat says the government has stepped up security in and around Jandola and denied earlier reports that the strategic town had fallen to Taliban militants.

"These are just rumors," he said. "They have not acquired Jandolah, but their influence over Jandolah has increased. There is no doubt in it."

The Pakistani town where the incident took place is located on the main road used for sending supplies to government forces stationed in the South Waziristan tribal region, which is a stronghold of Pakistani Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud.

The Waziristan region is also believed to be used by Taliban militants for cross-border attacks on local and foreign forces in Afghanistan.

Taliban militants have carried out regular attacks on Pakistani security forces and their local supporters in the tribal areas. But in recent months, these extremists have extended their subversive activities to some of the urban centers of the North-West Frontier Province.

Incidents like kidnapping of government officials, blowing up of female education centers and banning music on some areas have become routine in recent weeks.

The rise in the extremist activities is occurring despite Pakistani government attempts to engage militants in talks to end the violence.

But the policy is under fire from Afghan and NATO-led forces as well as U.S officials. They say that peace talks and peace deals with militants can help them regroup to launch more cross-border attacks.

U.S military commanders stationed in eastern Afghanistan say insurgent attacks launched from the militant hideouts on the Pakistani side of the border have increased this year.

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