Wednesday, Jun 25, 2003
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By B. Muralidhar Reddy
A section of the tribesmen opposed to the operation have attacked the forces and at least three persons including a paramilitary official is believed to have been killed.
The Pakistani army in a press statement categorically denied reports that the operations were being jointly undertaken with U.S. forces. It was also claimed that the operations had been launched after consent from the tribal elders.
In recent weeks, Pakistan has been under pressure from the U.S. to step up its operations in the tribal areas, out of bounds for the regular forces, in search of the Al-Qaeda fugitives. A tripartite meeting of the Afghanistan-Pakistan-U.S. Commission had recently discussed the issue and worked out a strategy to tackle the problem of stepped up attacks on the U.S. led coalition forces from the region.
A press release said that the Pakistani troops had established their presence in the entire area, except a small pocket in the Salala Pass near the border area, where some people were occupying hilltops and firing on them.
"Our forces are exercising maximum restraint,'' the press release said.
Government officials say the Pakistani troops have managed to evict the Khugakhel tribesmen from the right side of the Salala Pass but they are still occupying ridges on the left side.
Officials put the total number of Khugakhel tribesmen taking positions on Salala Pass at around 200.
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