Deal to free 260 Pakistani troops goes sour

/ Source: The Associated Press

Militants backtracked on a deal to free more than 260 abducted Pakistani troops Monday after an army raid on their hideout near the Afghan border left three rebels dead, a tribal elder said.

Local authorities and tribal elders had said the soldiers — who were kidnapped Aug. 30 in South Waziristan — would be freed Monday after talks with the militants.

However, the militants changed their minds after the army raided their hideout in the region, setting off a shootout that left three insurgents dead, said Masood Ahmed, a local tribal elder.

"We could not secure the release of soldiers because of that clash," he said.

Six of the abducted troops were released last week in what an official said was a good will gesture to the local leaders who were trying to negotiate their freedom.

Pakistan — a close U.S. ally in the war against terrorism — has deployed some 90,000 troops to the Pakistan-Afghan border region to track down militants.

In recent weeks, militants have stepped up attacks against the military in the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, adding to the government's woes at a time of gathering political crisis.

The United States has been pressing Pakistan to do more to crack down on militants in the region amid concern that al-Qaida may be regrouping there.