PARACHINAR, Pakistan — Pakistani troops killed 31 suspected militants in a northwest tribal region yesterday, while an attack on security forces in a nearby district that is home to insurgents battling the United States in Afghanistan further heightened tensions.
The 31 alleged militants, along with one soldier, died in clashes in Orakzai tribal region, government official Jahanzeb Khan said.
Pakistan stepped up army operations in Orakzai in mid-March to root out Pakistani Taliban fighters fleeing an offensive in the South Waziristan tribal area. But although the government has suggested Orakzai is the primary destination of the fleeing militants, a significant number are believed to now be sheltering in North Waziristan.
Despite this, North Waziristan has largely escaped recent Pakistani army operations. That’s because most of the militants there, unlike the Pakistani Taliban, are involved in attacks across the border in Afghanistan instead of Pakistan.
The United States wants Pakistan to take on the North Waziristan networks, but Islamabad says it does not have the resources for another front. Critics say Pakistan does not want to anger militants it may need to influence affairs in Afghanistan once the United States leaves.
Yesterday’s ambush on the security convoy could be a sign the dynamic is shifting in North Waziristan. The area is controlled by Sadiq Noor, a known Pakistani Taliban commander.