Military

VOICE OF AMERICA
SLUG: 2-314597 Pakistan al Qaida - L-O
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=3/30/04

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITILE=PAKISTAN/AL-QAIDA (L-O)

NUMBER=2-314597

BYLINE=AYAZ GUL

DATELINE=ISLAMABAD

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

INTRO: Authorities in Pakistan say suspected Islamic militants have shot dead two government hostages in a remote tribal region near the Afghan border. The mountainous area has been the scene of bloody clashes between security forces and armed fighters linked to the al-Qaida terror network for nearly two weeks. Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.

TEXT: Authorities say they found the bodies of two district officials late on Monday near Wana, the main town of the semiautonomous tribal region, South Waziristan. The bullet-ridden bodies were dumped in a well and officials say it is not clear when the men were killed.

The victims were kidnapped at the start of a major military operation that Pakistan launched two weeks ago against suspected al Qaida militants.

Some five thousand troops took part in the operation, which ended on Sunday. Military officials declared the 12-day offensive a success, saying 63 suspected terrorists were killed and 167 were captured, including foreigners. But the government also suffered losses.

Officials say the fighting killed at least 46 troops and wounded 26 others.

Military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan said a top al-Qaida leader identified as Tahir Yuldashev was wounded in the assault but managed to escape along with several fighters. He says the troops will remain in the border region to prevent the militants from re-grouping.

/// SULTAN ACT ///

Whenever our intelligence picture is complete, we may go to nab them. They are on the run. We will ensure they do not establish such kind of den anywhere else.

/// END ACT ///

The Pakistani government said Monday that an al-Qaida spy chief, identified only as "Abdullah" was among the militants killed in the operation. But it has yet to find his body or fully confirm his identity.

General Sultan said Tuesday the man was just one of the senior intelligence people working for al-Qaida in the Pakistani tribal region. Earlier, the general had indicated the man was a major figure in the terror network. (SIGNED)

NEB/HK/AG/KPD/MEM



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