Taliban siege of Pakistan elders leaves 7 dead

Taliban militants attacked Pakistani tribal leaders near the Afghan border, triggering a gunbattle and an explosion that killed seven people, an official said Tuesday.

By HABIB KHAN, Associated Press Writer

The clash happened late Monday in Bajur, a lawless region in Pakistan’s northwest where troops and tribal militias have been battling Taliban guerrillas for more than three months.

Israr Khan, a government representative in the semi-autonomous region, said Taliban gunmen surrounded a group of elders from the Mamund tribe in a fortress-like compound in the village of Inayat Kili.

An hourslong gunbattle between the two sides killed a commander of the Taliban fighters as well as two guards in the compound, Khan said. Four elders also died when an explosion hit the compound, he said. It was unclear what caused the blast.

Soldiers of Pakistan army patrol in troubled city of Swat, Pakistan, ... 
Soldiers of Pakistan army patrol in troubled city of Swat, Pakistan, Monday, Nov. 17, 2008. A suicide car bomber attacked an army checkpoint in northwestern Pakistan on Monday, killing four security personnel, while violence elsewhere in the region left at least five suspected militants dead, authorities said.(AP Photo/Sherin Zada)

Taliban spokesman Maulvi Umar confirmed the death of a militant commander in Monday’s clash.

Pakistani and U.S. officials have applauded efforts by some tribal leaders to establish militias to fight Taliban and al-Qaida militants blamed for attacks on foreign troops in Afghanistan as well as targets in Pakistan.

The militias’ emergence in Bajur and other parts of Pakistan’s northwest has drawn comparisons with so-called Awakening Councils that helped turned the tide against al-Qaida in Iraq.

However, some observers warn that arming more groups in the impoverished border region will only sustain the anarchy in which violent extremism has flourished.

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