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Pakistan Hits Suspected Al Qaeda Hide-Outs

June 13, 2004|Zulfiqar Ali | Special to The Times

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — The Pakistani army and air force attacked suspected hide-outs of foreign militants and their local supporters in the South Waziristan tribal region as fighting continued for a fourth day Saturday.

Fighter jets and helicopter gunships targeted positions of the suspected Al Qaeda fighters and their sympathizers in the remote Shakai area, while thousands of regular troops, paramilitary forces and the elite Special Services Group fired artillery shells, witnesses said.

Militants fired missiles at a paramilitary post near Wana in South Waziristan. In Dera Ismail Khan district in the neighboring North-West Frontier Province, a powerful bomb went off outside the home of a senior security official, killing a passerby and wounding three people, including two security guards, officials said.

In addition, an outpost of the Frontier Corps in the North Waziristan region came under attack Friday night.

Pakistan has been using jets and helicopters for the first time in its offensive against suspected Al Qaeda militants in the region.

Officials said that two F-7 planes dropped their bombs on the fortress-like mud houses of the tribal militants in the Shakai area throughout the day and used Cobra helicopters for a second consecutive day. Security forces have cordoned off the area and ordered hundreds of Afghan refugee families to vacate five camps there.

Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan said that security forces had destroyed the suspected hide-outs, including training facilities, and taken control of Shakai, where foreign militants were holed up.

Reports said that security forces also clashed with militants in the Azam Warsak area of South Waziristan near the Afghan border. Tribesmen in the area said foreign militants and their local protectors were putting up tough resistance to the security forces.

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