Islamabad: Over 50 people, including militants, have reportedly died in Pakistan`s lawless North Waziristan region in the past three days after the army launched an operation in retaliation for a suicide attack on its soldiers.
The army claims troops had killed only militants and foreign fighters operating in the semi-autonomous tribal district but residents said civilians had also died.
The violence in North Waziristan, triggered by Wednesday night`s suicide attack on security forces, continued yesterday as three persons were killed when troops fired at a vehicle during curfew near Khajori check post, the Dawn daily reported.
The death toll in this week`s clashes has risen to 53, local residents were quoted as saying by the daily.
There are no signs of a large-scale operation against? militants in the area and the army appears to be carrying out a limited action. North Waziristan is considered a safe haven for Taliban and al Qaeda elements.
There is confusion about the civilian and militant casualties. The media cell of the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan released images of what it said were burnt shops and buildings purportedly hit by artillery shells.
The photos were sent to media outlets and the Taliban accused security forces of killing civilians, Dawn reported.
Competing versions of events by military sources, militant groups and local residents cannot be reconciled in an area inaccessible to most journalists, the report said.
The trouble began in Mirali, the second largest town of the region, when a suicide bomber targeted Khajori check post with an explosives-laden vehicle on Wednesday. Initial reports said five soldiers were killed but the figure was later revised to just two.
The army said after the suicide attack, militants ambushed a convoy evacuating wounded soldiers. Troops retaliated and killed 24 militants. Ten more militants died during a search operation in the same area on Thursday.
Local residents contested official claims and said security forces fired at two hotels and the dead were non-combatants, Dawn reported. Social media and civil society activists claimed several civilians were killed, a charge denied by the military.