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Pakistani Troops Reportedly Move Against Tribesmen Sheltering al-Qaida, Taleban - 2004-03-16

Pakistani security forces are reported to have launched an operation Tuesday against tribesmen suspected of sheltering al-Qaida and Taleban fugitives near the Afghan border.

News reports say troops began the operation before dawn in a village (Kaloosha) in the South Waziristan tribal region.

Heavy gunfire could be heard in the area of the village, located about 10-kilometers west of the region's main town, Wana.

Pakistani officials in Islamabad had no immediate comment on the operation, which is the latest in a series of military moves in the semi-autonomous tribal regions -- considered a likely hiding place for al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden.

Monday, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf vowed to rid the tribal regions of suspected Islamic extremists. General Musharraf also acknowledged that up to 600 foreign Islamic militants may have taken refuge in the rugged areas along the border with Afghanistan.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.