India-Pakistan: March 22, 2004

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In Pakistan, along the Afghanistan border, the tribal leaders have changed their mind. But this does not mean the tribes are on the side of the government. No, the tribes are looking out for themselves. If the truce can help the al Qaeda fighters slip away, the problem is solved from the point of view of the tribal leaders. But the nearly 10,000 Pakistani troops are using the truce to move around more freely and conduct house to house searches for weapons and foreigners. The longer the army stays around, the more power and authority the tribal leaders lose. 

The Pakistani government has given the tribal leaders three demands;

-Free twelve soldiers and two government officials taken prisoner last week.

- Hand over tribesmen who have been working for al Qaeda and taking part in the fighting.

- Expel the foreigners or show the military where the foreigners went so troops can find them.

It is thought that the 400 or so fighters under siege are running short of ammunition, because their volume of fire has gone down. Apparently the Pakistani commander is under orders to allow no deals. Several attempts by the besieged fighters to break through the cordon have failed, and the Pakistanis have the dead bodies and prisoners to prove it. The foreign fighters include Arabs, Chechens, Uzbeks and Uighurs (pronounced "wee-gurs"; Turkic people from Chinas northwest). 

While the tribal leaders talk, the al Qaeda fighters have begun shooting again, perhaps as a diversion so that some of them can sneak away.

 

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