|VOICE OF AMERICA|
SLUG: 2-324923 Pakistan/al-Quaida (L)
TITLE=PAKISTAN/ AL-QAIDA (L-ONLY)
HEADLINE: Pakistan Claims Victory Over al-Qaida in Tribal Region
INTRO: A Pakistani military commander says the army has eliminated al-Qaida from a restive tribal region near the Afghan border. VOA's Benjamin Sand reports from Islamabad.
TEXT: Major General Niaz Khattak says the military has crushed the al-Qaida network in the South Waziristan tribal region after months of heavy fighting.
The general told reporters touring the region (Saturday) that the army has killed or arrested over a thousand militants in the past year.
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"The network has been badly mauled and militarily, sociologically, politically and logistically (is in) disarray. Local support has totally evaporated."
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General Khattak said military intelligence shows none of the terrorist group's fighters are still in the area.
He also said that more than 100 foreign fighters were also killed during the campaign.
South Waziristan was considered a key sanctuary for al-Qaida and Taleban fighters, including many seeking refuge after U.S. military operations drove them out of neighboring Afghanistan.
However, General Khattak said there was no indication Osama bin Laden or his senior aides were ever in the area.
The army is now focusing on consolidating support among the area's local communities.
Troops are already working on new roads, schools and medical clinics to improve living conditions in the area. (SIGNED)
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