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Militants abduct tribesmen in Pakistan

Pakistani militant chief Hakimullah Mehsud (C) sitting with other militants in South Waziristan

Pro-Taliban militants have kidnapped at least 23 tribesmen, claiming they support military operations in the troubled northwestern areas of Pakistan.

A Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman, Azam Tariq, said the militant court in South Waziristan would issue a verdict on the fate of those detained within days.

Pakistani intelligence officials said the abductees were members of a group that welcomed Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to the volatile region earlier in December.

The Pakistani army has launched several operations in northwestern parts of the country in an effort to flush out pro-Taliban militants from the tribal areas. The fighting has forced some 400,000 civilians to flee the region.

The kidnappings come two days after a powerful bomb explosion at a security check-post in the town of Khar in the Bajaur tribal region killed 43 and left over 100 others injured.

According to reports, the bomber detonated the explosives among a crowd receiving food aid outside the World Food Program’s office.

The increase in violence comes despite the Pakistani Army’s recent claims that the cited areas have been cleared of militants. The army has also announced it safe for internally displaced persons (IDPs) to return to their homes.

Pro-Taliban militants claim they have seven courts functioning in South Waziristan, as well as 22 offices.

“This is a warning to the tribal people to not come to the area because we are still present in South Waziristan,” the Associated Press quoted Tariq as saying.

Pakistan has recently experienced a surge in militant attacks. Since July 2007, over 4,000 people have lost their lives in a wave of bombings across the country.

The militants reportedly inspired by Wahhabi ideology are demanding a strict enforcement of Saudi-style laws in the troubled region.

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