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Pakistani Military Pushes Deeper in Militant Territory


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Pakistani troops fighting militants along the Afghan border have seized passports that may be linked to suspects involved in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. The discovery came as visiting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chided the Pakistani government for failing to vigorously pursue al-Qaida inside Pakistan. In the latest fighting in the South Waziristan region, government troops reportedly killed two dozen militants while losing two of their own soldiers.

Pakistani military officials say troops continued to advance deep inside the South Waziristan tribal region Friday.

The reported advances near the Afghan border come a day after army officials took journalists into the region for the first time since the operation started in mid-October.

Major-General Khalid Rabbani said troops faced days of fierce battles with foreign fighters and, in the end, captured several large caches of weapons and supplies.

"We have killed many of them. And they are of all types: Chechens, Uzbeks, Turkmen and others. Some of the passports which we have captured without a word would say a lot."

Soldiers displayed the passports, which included a German one reportedly belonging to a man named Said Bahaji.

The name matches that of a German man of Moroccan origin thought to be a member of the Hamburg, Germany cell of al-Qaida. Bahaji is believed to have provided support for the hijackings of American airplanes on September 11, 2001.

Senior Pakistani military officials would not comment on the passports, and they have not been independently verified as genuine.

While in Pakistan this week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she finds it hard to believe that the Pakistani government does not know where al-Qaida leaders are hiding in the country.

U.S. officials have long said they believe al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and his top commanders shifted their base of operation from Afghanistan to Pakistan's largely autonomous tribal regions after coalition forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

Clinton ended her three-day trip to Pakistan Friday by meeting leaders from the volatile tribal areas and the North West Frontier Province.

NWFP lawmaker Pir Sabir Shah met with Clinton.

He says he thinks that it is good that the Obama administration is seeking to get firsthand knowledge of the effects that the war against terrorism is causing the U.S. ally.

The NWFP has borne the brunt of Pakistan's recent violence. Earlier this year, the military launched an operation against Taliban militants, which displaced millions of civilians. This week, a car bomb in Peshawar was the country's single deadliest act of terrorism since 2007.

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