MIRAN SHAH, Pakistan, (AP) -Militants and soldiers exchanged fire in northwest Pakistan Monday, an official said, killing one militant and injuring three civilians and a soldier in a lawless region where U.S. authorities worry al-Qaeda is regrouping.
The clash in North Waziristan came a day after four militants and a soldier died in fighting there and a suicide attack killed four policemen in neighboring North West Frontier Province.
The militants fired rockets at a security post on the outskirts of North Waziristan’s main town of Miran Shah before dawn Monday, sparking a gunbattle with troops, an intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
A mortar shell apparently fired by security forces hit a civilian home, wounding two women and a child, the official said. One militant was killed and one soldier wounded in the firing.
Militants rocketed military posts and bases in Miran Shah and in Mir Ali, another North Waziristan town, but no one was hurt, he said.
Also Monday, police said they seized four suicide belts, 228 sticks of dynamite and other bomb-making material in a raid on a home in Chakdara, a town in North West Frontier Province’s Dir district.
Police launched the raid on intelligence that a Saudi Arabian al-Qaeda suspect was living in the house, but he was not there, a police official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make media comments.
A Pakistani doctor who owned the house was taken into custody along with the family of the Saudi suspect and a guard, the official said.
He said the suspect, who had been living at the house for three weeks, had told local people his name was Mohammed Yousaf. Further details were not available.
Violence blamed on Islamic militants has spiked in recent weeks in northwestern Pakistan, including in the North and South Waziristan tribal areas that border Afghanistan.
The uptick in violence comes amid increased U.S. pressure on Pakistan’s Washington-backed leader, President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, to do more to crack down on militants near the frontier, where a recent U.S. intelligence report suggested al-Qaeda may be regrouping.
Militants have staged almost daily attacks on security forces in North Waziristan since scrapping a peace agreement with the government. Militants accused authorities of violating the September 2006 deal by redeploying troops to checkpoints vacated under terms of the accord. Officials said the troops returned because of deteriorating security.
The army’s top spokesman, Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad, said Friday that some 250 militants and 60 troops have died in a month of violence, including a string of suicide attacks on security forces.