Vol. 5 Num 568 Sat. December 31, 2005  

Pak 'Taliban' gain sway in tribal region

Pakistani followers of Afghanistan's Taliban have gained sway in a sensitive border area where they have been killing their opponents with impunity despite the heavy presence of government forces.

The word of the militants, who call themselves Taliban, has virtually become law in parts of the semi-autonomous North Waziristan tribal area while the military appears loathe to intervene.

"The situation is no longer under their control," Rahimullah Yusufzai, a prominent journalist and expert on the region, said of the Pakistani army.

The government had "totally abdicated" its authority in North Waziristan, he said.

"It seems it's Taliban raj (rule) there."

Waziristan is part of Pakistan's tribal belt that stretches through rugged mountains and deserts along the Afghan border.

Many al-Qaeda and Afghan Taliban members fled to the remote region from Afghanistan after US-led forces ousted the Taliban in late 2001 and were given shelter by militants from the ethnic Pashtun tribes that inhabit both sides of the border.

The army launched an offensive to clear foreign militants from the region two years ago and hundreds of people -- militants and government troops -- have been killed.

The latest violence follows a Dec. 1 blast in a house near the region's main town, Miranshah, where officials said an al-Qaeda commander, Abu Hamza Rabia, and four others were killed,

Although Rabia's body was not found, authorities say he died when explosives at his hideout detonated accidentally. Villagers said the blast was caused by a missile from an aircraft, possibly a US drone.