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10 Pakistani Soldiers Killed in Battle with al-Qaida - 2002-06-26


Pakistani military authorities say 10 of their soldiers were killed Wednesday, in a gun battle with suspected al-Qaida fighters, in tribal areas, near the Afghan border. At least two Pakistani military officers and a number of al-Qaida fighters are reported to have been killed in the incident.

An official military statement says the gun battle took place near Wana, about 300 kilometers west of Islamabad and 10 kilometers from the Afghanistan border. The statement says Pakistani troops were attacked when they began searching houses in the area where al-Qaida fighters were believed to be hiding.

Wana is the capital of the South Waziristan tribal area, which borders Afghanistan.

U.S. communications experts are helping Pakistani troops in their operations, but officials in Islamabad say no U.S. combat forces were involved in Wednesday's incident. The battle marked the first time Pakistani troops have died fighting in the area.

Several al-Qaida fighters, including a Chechen national, were reported to have been captured in the incident. Following Wednesday's fighting, Pakistani forces launched a major operation to search for any remaining attackers.

U.S. and British troops have been carrying out search operations against al-Qaida and Taleban fighters for months, on the Afghan side of Pakistani's tribal areas. So far, most military operations in the region have resulted in the recovery of large quantities of weapons and explosives, but there have been few large-scale military encounters.

U.S. and British troops in the area have come under occasional rocket and small-arms fire but, so far, American and British soldiers have suffered no casualties. Pakistani officials say, since December, they have arrested more than 300 suspected al-Qaida and Taleban fighters who had crossed into Pakistani territory from Afghanistan.

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