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Pakistan Rejects US Assertion of New Al-Qaida Headquarters

  • Benjamin Sand

Pakistani officials sharply reject U.S. comments alleging al-Qaida has re-established its global headquarters in Pakistan. The U.S. intelligence chief, John Negroponte, said the terrorist group has established a secure hideout in Pakistan. VOA correspondent Benjamin Sand has more from Islamabad.

Pakistan's Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao told reporters Friday that his country is doing everything it can to help defeat terrorist groups operating in the region.

"We have been doing a job that was very, very sensitive and very difficult. In spite of that, we have been able to achieve the marginalization of al-Qaida and other terrorist groups," said Sherpao.

In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said Pakistan "has done more than any other country in the world" to help "break the back of al-Qaida."

The statement also rejected alleged links between al-Qaida militants elsewhere in the world with any al-Qaida remnants still inside Pakistan.

The outgoing U.S. intelligence director, John Negroponte said Thursday that Pakistan, which is a key ally in the U.S.-led war on terror, remains a haven for terrorist leaders.

Negroponte told a Senate Intelligence Committee that al-Qaida is cultivating ties and bases inside Pakistan with connections radiating throughout the Middle East, North Africa and Europe.

U.S. officials have repeatedly said they believe al-Qaida leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are hiding along the rugged border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

But this is the first time Negroponte specifically and publicly has singled out Pakistan as al-Qaida's worldwide headquarters.

His statement came on the same day the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, General David Richards, praised Pakistan's role in helping combat the Taleban insurgency in Afghanistan.

Speaking to reporters in Islamabad, he said Pakistan's army has helped secure the rugged border area and limit the number of Taleban attacks.

"It is a 2,500 kilometer long border, highly mountainous and very difficult to control. The reduction in incidents in Afghanistan however has much to do with activity on this side of the border," said General Richards.

Also NATO officials said more than 100 suspected Taleban insurgents were killed in Afghanistan this week during a battle just a few kilometers from the Pakistan border.

Pakistan's army reportedly helped coordinate the attack and fired on supply trucks supporting the insurgents.

U.S. and Afghan officials have previously accused Islamabad of not doing enough to prevent insurgents from the hard-line Islamist Taleban from using Pakistani territory to launch cross border raids.

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