100 arrested in anti Al-Qaeda operation: Pak military

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

Islamabad, March 20, IRNA - Pakistan military said Saturday that 100 
miscreants, including foreign militants, have been arrested in four 
days in operation against Taliban and al-Qaeda suspects and those 
harbouring them in tribal area, bordering Afghanistan. 
The arrested men included Uzbeks, Arabs, Chechens and locals, 
Corps Commander Peshawar Lt. General Safdar Hussain told foreign and 
local journalists at Wana, the headquarters of South Waziristan, some 
300 kilometers south of Islamabad. 
He said the military intercepted a wireless message by Uzbek and 
Chechen language, during which a message about the injury of a 
colleague was being passed. 
He said the injured suspect could likely be Uzbek Nek Muhammad or 
Chechen commander Daud. He did not rule out the presence of Ayman 
al-Zawahiri in the area. 
He said Russian-made arms have been recovered from those arrested 
in operation. Explosives and other equipment being used for suicide 
bomb attacks have also been recovered, Hussain said. 
Hussain said that the operation has been expanded to 60 square 
kilometers from 50 kilometers, adding that some 400 "miscreants and 
foreign militants" are showing stiff resistance at Palwasha and Shin 
Warsak areas. 
"Complete sealing of the border is impossible," the corps 
commander said adding that there are 240 escaping points to 
Afghanistan. He said the suspects tried to flee to Afghanistan in five
vehicles but firing by the Pakistan gunship cobra helicopters foiled 
their attempt and destroyed their vehicles. 
He said three foreign suspects were killed on Friday. He said a 
local Yar Gul tribe is assisting the militants, saying that the tribe 
would be given harsh punishment. 
Pakistani forces on Saturday resumed heavy artillery bombardment 
of an area where they say more than 400 armed militants are believed 
to be holed up. 
Cobra gunship helicopters have assisted ground troops in the 
offensive, now entering its third day, in a tribal area near the 
Afghan border. 
It is thought a senior al-Qaeda figure could be among those 
cornered. But Pakistani and US officials are playing down speculation 
it is Osama Bin Laden`s deputy Ayman al-Zawahri. 
At first light on Saturday, Pakistani troops once again pounded 
the area with artillery. 
The militants responded with mortars and rocket-propelled 
A military spokesman said they had identified seven pockets of 
resistance in South Waziristan, now completely surrounded by Pakistani
A group of journalists were taken to Wana for briefing on 
They were told that troops are gradually closing in and that the 
pockets of resistance of suspects will be overrun within a few days. 
At least 15 soldiers died on the first day of the operation on 
Tuesday, according to military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan.
He said 24 militants, thought to be local tribesmen or al-Qaeda 
suspects, were also killed. 
The Pakistani operation is being described as the biggest since 
the hunt for Bin Laden and his associates started in the area more 
than two years ago. 

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