Pakistan says its troops have raided a major al-Qaida terror base in a tribal region bordering Afghanistan. Pakistani officials have closed the border to prevent militant infiltration into Afghanistan, which holds parliamentary elections on Sunday.
Pakistan is under pressure from the United States and Afghan government to do more to stop fugitive Taleban and al-Qaida militants from using Pakistani border regions for attacks aimed at disrupting the elections in Afghanistan.
On Thursday, a group of journalists was flown to the North Waziristan mountainous tribal region, the scene of what Pakistan's military is calling its biggest operation against al-Qaida.
A top military commander, Lieutenant-General Safdar Hussain, told the group the operation is primarily meant to secure the border to prevent militant infiltration into Afghanistan. He says his troops also have destroyed a major base in the area used by al-Qaida militants for terrorist activities and have captured 28 suspected militants, including foreigners.
"The biggest al-Qaida terrorist network in the North Waziristan Agency stand busted today," said Hussain. "The operation is still going on and huge quantities of ammunition, weapons and other sophisticated equipment used for terrorism, are still being recovered," he said.
General Hussain says the militant den was set up in a madrassa or Islamic seminary near Miranshah, the administrative center of the North Waziristan tribal region and was owned by a fugitive Taleban commander, Jalaluddin Haqqani.
He says that the border with Afghanistan has completely been sealed ahead of Sunday's parliamentary elections in that country. The general told reporters that an overnight curfew has been imposed and troops have been given orders to shoot on sight anyone found within five kilometers of the border.
But he blamed a surge in Taleban attacks in Afghanistan on a lack of authority by the Afghan and U.S.-led coalition forces.
"This is because of the lack of writ of the coalition forces and the A.N.A. [Afghan National Army]," said Hussain. "Probably they have not been able to devote that kind of effort towards the southern and eastern Afghanistan as they did in the central and the northern Afghanistan," he said.
General Hussain says he has also deployed an extra 9,000 troops, taking the total stationed in the tribal region to over 80,000.
Afghan and U.S officials often complain that Pakistan's mountainous belt acts as a safe haven for Taleban militants to launch attacks inside Afghanistan.