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7 Dead in Pakistani Prison Gun Battle - 2001-12-19


A clash between Pakistani soldiers and captured al-Qaida fighters from Afghanistan has left at least seven people dead. At this time, it is unclear how many of the dead are soldiers. The gun battle broke out as the prisoners were being transferred to a jail in northern Pakistan.

Pakistani officials say about two dozen Arab al-Qaida prisoners managed to seize the weapons of their Pakistani guards and opened fire, causing the van they were in to overturn.

The clash took place in Sadda, in the Kurram semi-autonomous tribal area, about 120 kilometers west of Peshawar.

The prisoners are believed to be among 250 al-Qaida fighters driven from the Tora Bora area. They were arrested Tuesday while trying to cross the border into Pakistan.

Pakistani troops have been patrolling the border with Afghanistan to prevent al-Qaida members from seeking refuge in Pakistan's semi-autonomous Pashto tribal areas.

Meanwhile, U.S. forces in Afghanistan are intensifying the hunt for Osama bin Laden and other top al-Qaida leaders. U.S. special forces and Afghan tribal fighters are searching the Tora Bora cave complex. U.S. special forces and intelligence agents are interrogating prisoners captured by Afghan anti-Taleban forces.

A search also is underway for Taleban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, who is believed to be hiding in the mountains of south-central Afghanistan. Afghan intelligence officers say they think he is still in the Baghran region of Helmand Province, but most of his top associates have fled to Pakistan.

In Washington, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz warned against giving refuge to Osama bin Laden - pointing to what has happened to the Taleban. He said any country that would knowingly harbor Osama bin Laden would be "out of their minds."

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