The movement of Afghanistan-based US and Nato troops over the past few days close to North and South Waziristan Agencies has frightened tribesmen, who are already under stress due to the increasing number of drone attacks and a possible military operation by the Pakistan Army.

Official and tribal sources informed The News from the border villages of North Waziristan about the unusual movement of what they termed huge number of the US and Nato forces along the Pak-Afghan border.

They said the Nato troops were armed with helicopter gunships, tanks and armoured personnel carriers (APCs) and had started establishing camps and checkpoints along the border.

The residents of border villages, including Dwatoi, Kazha Madakhel and Gorweek, said warplanes and helicopter gunships were seen flying over the border areas between the two neighbouring countries throughout the day. In some of the areas, the tribesmen claimed the planes violated Pakistanís airspace and flew over their villages.

[efoods]Villagers claimed that the US and Nato forces were brought to the border area in 80 vehicles amid tight security.

A military official based in Miramshah, the headquarters of North Waziristan, said they had also received reports about the troop movement but could not confirm it. Wishing not to be named, he said Pakistanís armed forces were fully alert on their posts along the border with Afghanistan. ìThey often come to the border villages inside Afghanistan and return to their bases after some time. There is no need to be worried,î the official said.

Tribal sources close to the Taliban in Afghanistan said there had been an unprecedented rise in attacks on the US and Nato forces in Afghanistan and their movement in the border areas could be an act of desperation.

They said the foreign forces had particularly suffered losses in Helmand, Paktia, Paktika and Khost provinces, which were close to Pakistanís restive South and North Waziristan tribal regions.

Besides suffering casualties, the sources said, the Taliban militants had made some US and British soldiers hostage in Afghanistan.

The movement of foreign forces close to Pakistanís border and establishment of the checkpoints, along the porous Durand Line, could be part of their strategy to stop the Taliban militants from shifting the kidnapped US and British soldiers to the adjoining tribal areas, said the sources.

On September 3, 2008, the US-led foreign forces carried out their first-ever ground operation in the Pakistani territory, killing 15 Pakistanis, including women and children, in South Waziristanís Musa Nika village near Angoor Adda, close to Afghanistanís Paktika province. The tribesmen fear recurrence of such an attack.

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