Authorities in a Pakistani tribal region have expanded a 24-hour curfew to avert further deadly clashes between local militants and Pashtun rights activists.
Tensions have been high in South Waziristan since at least four people were reported killed and 25 wounded in Wana, the region’s main town, in June 3 clashes involving activists from the Pashtun Protection Movement (PTM) and alleged Taliban-linked militants.
Officials said on June 6 that 80 people have since been arrested, while curfew was extended from Wana to other parts of South Waziristan.
Land telephone lines and mobile phone lines were not responding, according to residents.
A local health official said that as many as seven people were killed in the violence, which erupted after PTM supporters were stopped by a local militant group from holding a gathering to welcome one of their leaders, Ali Wazir.
The PTM say the members of the group have ties with a Taliban faction that has covert support from Pakistan's military.
They also say that the military will be held responsible if anything happened to Wazir.
Wazir is reportedly encircled by militants in Wana, and the PTM alleges that security forces did not act to ensure his safety.
The Pakistani Army has said the area is clear of militants.
A military spokesman said on June 4 that a government-sponsored "peace committee" had clashed with the PTM members and that paramilitary forces had stopped the fighting.
The PTM has been holding rallies across Pakistan since the beginning of the year, protesting against what they say are human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings by security forces in the tribal regions.
They allege collusion between security forces and some Taliban factions, which officials deny.