Pakistan is stepping up efforts to hunt down suspected terrorists believed to be hiding in its semi-autonomous tribal area. The move comes amid what the U.S. military is describing as an intense hunt for fugitive leaders of the al-Qaida terror network.
Pakistan's army is reportedly preparing for a new offensive in the South Waziristan tribal agency, an area believed to harbor al-Qaida members and insurgents staging attacks against Afghanistan.
In recent months, the military has been working with tribal leaders to hunt down alleged foreign terrorists in the agency, which borders the Afghan province of Paktika.
Local reports Thursday and Friday say that, while a posse of tribesmen has found some terrorist suspects, the military is set to begin a new operation to augment these efforts.
Military spokesman Major-General Shaukat Sultan Khan would not comment specifically on any military plans in South Waziristan. He did say that, if foreign terrorists are operating there, they will be found.
"We are looking for them, and the tribal elders are on board in this effort to trace out those terrorists," he said. "And we are quite hopeful that we will find them out in case they are in this area."
On Wednesday, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf called on tribal leaders to strengthen their hunt for foreign militants.
President Musharraf said that the presence of such terrorists in South Waziristan is a certainty.
He added that the military would deal leniently with anyone sheltering terror suspects, if they turned the suspects in to the authorities.
Pakistan's moves in the tribal region coincide with renewed efforts by U.S. troops in Afghanistan to track down members of al-Qaida, blamed for the devastating attacks on the United States in 2001.
Speaking in Washington Thursday, top U.S. military officer General Richard Myers described the search for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden as intense.
He said Osama bin Laden is believed to be hiding along the Afghan-Pakistani border.
Pakistani officials, however, say that operations in the tribal area are solely part of their own anti-terror efforts, and are not linked to U.S. military activity in Afghanistan.