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Approx. 80 Militants Killed in Pakistani Military Action
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On Monday the Pakistan army said the majority of those present in a religious school were killed when security forces bombed the facility in a pre-dawn attack.

"Gunship helicopters targeted the madrassa which was being used for terrorist activities and to train militants in the Bajur tribal region," the military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan told a news conference.

Sultan said 20 to 30 people were confirmed dead but added that locals had put the figure at 80.

"There were 70 to 80 people at the madrassa when the security forces conducted the operation at 5 AM," said Sultan.

He added that some foreigners were among those killed in the strike on Chenagai village, 10 km north of Khar, the headquarters of the Bajur tribal region. "The identity of the foreigners is being established," Sultan said.

Sultan said the government had warned the militants not to use the seminary for terrorist training but they had refused to comply. "Most of the targets were eliminated," he said. There were no women or children in the vicinity at the time of the attack, he added.
The attack occurred two days after a huge anti-US demonstration in Bajur bordering Afghanistan's eastern Kunar province. Those involved chanted slogans in favor of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban's Mullah Muhammad Omar.

Siraj ul Haq, Senior Minister of North West Frontier Province and Haroon ur Rashid, Member of the National Assembly, resigned on Monday in protest over the attack. Haq and Rashid attended the funeral of those who died and announced their resignations to thousands of mourners.

"There's no need to sit in the parliament if we cannot protect our people," the two men stated. Both belong to the Jamaat-e-Islami party.

"The attack was launched after confirmed information was received that the inmates were involved in terrorist training," Sultan said. He added that the seminary had been observed for a number of days. "The operation was successful," he said.

The local private Aaj TV reported the madrassa was owned by a local leader of a banned group "Tanzeem Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi."

This is the second major attack on Bajur in less than a year.

In January the United States launched a missile strike on a village in the Bajur area in an effort to kill al-Qaeda's deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. The strike caused the deaths of 18 people but Pakistani officials said al-Zawahiri was not among them. 

A jirga, or council of tribal elders, was planned for Bajur Monday to sign a peace deal with the government but had to be cancelled following the attack, locals said.

Sultan said the attack would not affect peace agreements with tribesmen.

(Xinhua News Agency October 31, 2006)


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