Two villagers killed, 4 hurt in Pakistan

Stray mortars hit several homes during fighting between pro-Taliban Islamic militants and security forces near the Afghan border, killing at least two Pakistani villagers and wounded four, officials and residents said Thursday.

Fighting began late Wednesday and ended just before dawn Thursday in the village of Hurmaz, about 25 kilometers (15 miles) southeast of Miran Shah, said Ahsan Ullah, a local resident.

An area security official confirmed the fighting and that two people were killed and four wounded, and said that officials didn't know whether the militants suffered losses.

"Our forces returned fire after miscreants fired rockets and used other munition to target them. We don't know whose fire caused these civilian casualties," said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Miran Shah is the main town in North Waziristan tribal region where al-Qaida and Taliban linked militants clashed with Pakistani troops earlier this month, sparking a weeklong gunbattle that left scores of rebels dead.

The military has said it also lost eight soldiers in the fighting.

Pakistan, a key ally of the United States in its war on terror, has deployed 80,000 troops in the country's tribal regions near Afghanistan and launched a series of operations there in an effort to flush out militants.

Officials say hundreds of members of Afghanistan's former Taliban regime and al-Qaida militants are hiding in Pakistani tribal regions, a claim that most tribesmen deny and say there were no foreign militants in their areas, reports the AP.

I.L.