MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (AFP) – The Pakistan military and militants have agreed a temporary ceasefire following some of the bloodiest clashes along the Afghan border for six years, a tribal elder said Tuesday.
Elders have been leading talks to try to broker the truce in Miranshah, the main town in the lawless tribal zone of North Waziristan, after fierce fighting last week that officials say left around 250 people dead.
“A temporary ceasefire has been agreed and four army checkposts in the area have been abolished,” said Faizullah Khan, who heads the local tribal council, adding it was reached Monday night.
The military denied however a ceasefire had been agreed, saying talks with the jirga, or tribal peace committee, were ongoing and a decision was expected later Tuesday.
“As far as security forces are concerned, negotiations for a ceasefire are continuing and a final decision is expected today,” chief military spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad said.
“We have eased restrictions to facilitate movement of civilians in the area,” Arshad said.
Fighting halted last Wednesday to allow tribesmen to bury some 50 people killed in a military airstrike that hit the village of Ippi.
There has been almost no clashes since amid ongoing talks and as Pakistan celebrates Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim festival at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
The military says 50 foreign militants including Arabs were among 200 rebels killed in the fighting which erupted ten days ago, indicating the involvement of Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network.
Another 46 Pakistani soldiers have also died, the military says, while residents say many of the dead were civilians. There has been no way to independently verify any of the claims.
Hundreds of foreign militants loyal to Bin Laden fled across the border from Afghanistan after US-led forces ousted that country’s hardline Taliban regime in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
Fighting has centred near the town of Mir Ali, which has been identified by US ally President Pervez Musharraf as an Al-Qaeda haunt.
The clashes were the culmination of three months of violence sparked by a government raid on an Al-Qaeda-linked mosque in Islamabad in July and the collapse of a controversial peace deal in North Waziristan.