New Pak offensive on Al-Qaeda dens

Agence France Presse

Wana, June 17:

Pakistani troops and fighter jets swooped down on suspected Al-Qaeda hideouts near the Afghan border today, launching their third offensive this year in a protracted campaign to rid the tribal region of foreign militants. The latest target was Baghar, a village lying in the 30 km stretch of mountains between the South Waziristan tribal district capital Wana and the porous frontier, a local official said, requesting anonymity. "There was a hideout in the area, it is being knocked out," military spokesman Major General Shaukat told AFP in Islamabad. "It is part of a continuing process which comes with different intervals."

Fighters jets and helicopter gunships pounded an Al-Qaeda training camp and two Al-Qaeda safe houses at nearby Shakai, just north of Wana, last weekend, killing 55 militants. The military said it had secured the area by Sunday night and declared the operation over, but was unable to say where hundreds of other militants had fled to. President Pervez Musharraf earlier in the year estimated 500 to 600 foreign fighters were hiding in the remote northwest tribal belt. A fierce 12-day offensive in March, also just west of Wana in Azam Warsak, killed 65 militants.