Accessibility links

Wanted Pakistani Militants Strike Amnesty Deal - 2004-04-23

In Pakistan, tribal elders in a remote mountainous border region say five wanted Islamic militants are promising to surrender to a traditional grand assembly on Saturday. Local leaders say the government is agreeing to allow the men to live in the region bordering Afghanistan, after their tribe guaranteed they would not engage in any subversive activities.

The five rebel tribesmen have taken refuge in the rugged mountains of the country's semi-autonomous region, known as South Waziristan. They have been allegedly leading fierce resistance to Pakistan's military campaign to flush out fugitive members of the al Qaida terror network from the area, near the Afghan border.

A senior tribal leader, Malik Anwar, says that after intense negotiations with local legislators, the wanted men agreed to surrender in exchange for amnesty. He says tribal elders, local lawmakers and military authorities will attend the special gathering, locally known as a "jirga," in the town of Shakai, near the Afghan border.

Mr. Anwar says the rebel tribesmen will promise before the grand assembly not to harbor al Qaida or Afghan militants in their region. The tribal elder says the men will also promise not to engage in militant activities, including attacks against foreign and government targets across the border in Afghanistan.

In return, he says the government will not arrest the men, including their tribal chief Nek Mohammad.

Pakistani government officials have not released any details about the deal.

The Pakistani border region is believed to shelter hundreds of suspected al Qaida and Afghan terrorists, who fled the U.S.-led war in neighboring Afghanistan.

In a major offensive last month, Pakistani troops killed more than 60 suspected militants in the area. Some 167 tribesman and foreigners fighting on behalf of al Qaida were captured in the operation that also killed 46 Pakistani soldiers.

Dozens of other suspects, who managed to escape, are believed in hiding on the Pakistani side of the border.