Tribal People Caught in Middle of Pakistan Fighting This week brought the deadliest fighting in Pakistan's tribal belt for years. The tribal people living in the in the mountains of Waziristan have been caught in the middle of the conflict, which has links to the war in neighboring Afghanistan.
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Tribal People Caught in Middle of Pakistan Fighting

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Tribal People Caught in Middle of Pakistan Fighting

Tribal People Caught in Middle of Pakistan Fighting

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This week brought the deadliest fighting in years to Pakistan's tribal areas where Pakistan military dispatched jets and helicopters to bomb and rocket what it says were militant hideouts. Many civilians were also killed and injured. Analysts and officials say that a lot about these conflicts links to the war in neighboring Afghanistan.

NPR's Philip Reeves found one man in a tribal area willing to talk about how it's affected his life. He filed this report.

PHILIP REEVES: Rakeed Gaul(ph) is proud of where he comes from. This is despite what he calls the restrictions. In his hometown Mir Ali, TVs are banned. There are no music shops and no theaters. That sounds repressive until you hear about the restrictions on the women.

Mr. RAKEED GAUL (Resident, Pakistan): (Through translator) If the woman comes out into a bazaar(ph), she's shot dead there.

REEVES: They shoot any woman who ventures out unaccompanied by a man. Gaul is sitting outside a hospital in Pakistan's frontier city of Peshawar, waiting for news of his injured relatives. For weeks, Pakistan under U.S. pressure has been fighting militants in its tribal border zone where the Taliban's steadily growing stronger.

A few days ago, Gaul says, Pakistani combat helicopters fired rockets into his relatives' home. The women were, as usual, inside; the men were not.

Mr. GAUL: (Through translator) We were offering a prayer in the mosque when there was suddenly a rocket, one rocket, and then there was another. There was a huge blast. We rushed to the houses and then we saw everything was destroyed

REEVES: Gaul says nine people were killed and many more were wounded.

Mr. GAUL: (Through translator) We carried our injured on the donkeys, on the hand carts and on the moose and horses. We committed no crime. They did a lot of tyranny to us.

REEVES: We asked him to tell us who the victims are, what are their names. I can't say, Gaul says, because they're women. He'll only name two young boys who were killed.

Mr. GAUL: (Foreign language spoken)

REEVES: He says this was the deadliest assault so far on Mir Ali. He doesn't know, he says, why the Pakistani army did it.

Others, though, have an idea. The veteran Peshawar-based journalist Rahimullah Yousafzai is an expert on the tribal areas. He says it was collective punishment by the Pakistani Army after tribal militants attacked a military convoy, killing a large number of soldiers.

Mr. RAHIMULLAH YOUSAFZAI (Journalist, Pakistan): If (unintelligible) ever the army is attacked, they will start shelling with artillery guns in that place from where they are attacked. They will start bombing it. That's why there is so much of this collateral damage. So many civilians had been killed.

REEVES: Back at the hospital, Gaul sits cross-legged on a carpet spread on the grass. He's a farmer, a bright-eyed man with a thick brown beard who's dressed in the traditional clothes of Pakistan's Pashtun tribal people. We start to grapple with the gulf separating our worlds. I explained some people in my world think his world is a haven for al-Qaida and the Taliban.

Mr. GAUL: (Through translator) I am unfamiliar with the word al-Qaida. I believe that in the whole of Pakistan there is absolutely no al-Qaida.

REEVES: He makes no secret about the prominent role the Taliban plays in his town, and says they're local Pakistanis.

Mr. GAUL: (Through translator) The local Taliban are the people who offer their prayer, who go to the mosques, who do their religious duty. They are not scoundrels. They are the peaceful people.

REEVES: He also says there are no foreign militants in his town. We can't verify this anymore than we can verify claims by U.S. intelligence that al-Qaida is active in Waziristan and growing stronger. Journalists are banned from going there. I noticed Gaul keeps using one particular phrase.

Mr. GAUL: (Through translator) Trouble is you cannot solve anything. You cannot achieve peace in Waziristan. Trouble is even until doomsday.

REEVES: That point doesn't need verifying. On that everyone here agrees.

Philip Reeves, NPR News, Islamabad.

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