Peshawar, Sept 08: More than 1,000 armed tribesmen have staged a protest against a search by paramilitary forces for suspected al-Qaeda members in northwest Pakistan, officials said today.
The demonstration yesterday was to protest against disruption caused by the search at Laddha in south Waziristan, 220 kilometres southwest of Peshawar.
"Authorities have blocked the roads in various places. They have arrested locals and are searching our vehicles every day," said tribesman Alam Wazir.
Protesters threatened to continue their demonstration unless those arrested were freed and roads were reopened.
Tribal elders speaking at the protest said that there are no al-Qaeda members in the tribal areas. They criticised the US and its allies for killing innocent people during military operations in neighbouring Afghanistan.
On Thursday soldiers suspended operations against one remote tribal village in the region after tribesmen promised to hunt and handover four wanted foreigners whom they said had escaped from their custody.
Authorities suspect the foreigners, who were snatched from their grasp by up to 60 armed tribesmen on Monday after being arrested during a routine car-check, may be linked to al-Qaeda.
Some 6,000 Pakistani troops, assisted by intelligence and communications experts from the US federal bureau of Investigation, have been scouring the northwest tribal border belt for months for al-Qaeda fugitives from Afghanistan.