Militant groups clash in northwest Pakistan, 24 killed
Pakistani schoolgirls, who were displaced with their families from Pakistan's tribal areas due to fighting between militants and the army, chant prayers during a class to pay tribute for five female teachers and two aid workers who were killed by gunmen, at a school in a slum on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan, Jan. 3, 2013. (AP / Muhammed Muheisen)
The Associated Press
Published Saturday, January 26, 2013 11:36AM EST
PESHAWAR— Two Islamic militant groups clashed Saturday over control of a prized valley in northwest Pakistan, killing at least 24 people and wounding dozens more, officials said.
Arshad Khan of the Khyber tribal region said the fighting between the two Islamic militant groups began Friday in Tirah valley, near the Afghan border, when the militant group, Tehrik-e-Taliban, captured the base of another militant group, Ansarul Islam. Ansarul Islam tried to retake the base and fighting continued into Saturday.
The Pakistani military has been battling a stubborn insurgency in northwest Pakistan in rugged tribal regions bordering Afghanistan.
The remote valley, tucked in mountainous terrain, is highly valued by militant groups as a base of operations. It's difficult for the Pakistani military to enter the area, which allows militants easy access to Afghanistan and other tribal areas of Pakistan.
Most of the dead were militants, but some local tribesmen also were killed, according to a Pakistani military officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to disclose the information to the media.
In Baluchistan province in the south, government troops have been waging a longtime struggle against Baloch nationalists, who demand a greater share of income generated from mineral and gas resources there.
On Saturday, a large group of armed men attacked a post manned by pro-government tribal militia members in a remote area in southwestern Baluchistan, killing two tribesmen and abducting seven more. The post is 500 kilometres northeast of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack but Baluch nationalists often target government forces and their supporters.
Local administrator Noor Illahi Bugti said dozens of armed men attacked the post, shot and killed two of the tribesmen and then forced the others to surrender. He said seven of the militia volunteers were then taken away by the armed group.
Bugti said security forces rushed to the area and were searching for the militia volunteers.