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Pakistan Army Strikes Al-Qaida Camps Near Afghan Border


Pakistan forces launched a powerful air strike against a series of suspected al-Qaida military camps in the country's tribal region near the Afghan border Tuesday. Officials say a number of foreign militants were among those killed. VOA's Benjamin Sand has more from Islamabad.

Military spokesman General Shaukat Sultan says the raid occurred early Tuesday morning in the South Waziristan tribal area.

"We had information about the presence of 25 to 30 foreign terrorists and their local facilitators," he said. "The foreign terrorists were associated with al-Qaida."

General Sultan says aircraft targeted five isolated compounds, completely destroying at least three of them and killing most of the militants inside.

There were no ground troops involved in the attack and no bodies were recovered during the operation.

General Sultan says it appears unlikely any high level al-Qaida leaders were killed.

The attack comes days after the outgoing U.S. intelligence chief John Negroponte said al-Qaida had effectively reestablished its worldwide headquarters inside Pakistan.

U.S. officials have repeatedly said that al-Qaida and Taleban forces have established bases in Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal areas along the Afghan border. Militants from central Asia, Chechnya, North Africa and the Middle East have all been tracked to locations inside North and South Waziristan.

Pakistan, a key ally in the U.S.-led war on terror, has deployed some 80,000 troops to the region but is also exploring political alternatives to help check the militants' advance.

Last September President Musharraf signed a controversial peace accord with local tribal leaders in North Waziristan, near where Tuesday's air strike occurred.

Under that agreement the government promised to suspend military operations against extremists in the region. In exchange, tribal elders agreed to expel foreign militants and help stop pro-Taleban forces from launching cross border raids into nearby Afghanistan.

The deal was widely criticized at the time and security analysts based here in Pakistan say the accord has actually strengthened the militants, allowing them to create virtual sanctuaries throughout the rugged border area.

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