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Pakistan's Musharraf says al Qaida Bases Eliminated

Ayaz Gul

President Pervez Musharraf says al Qaida's command and control infrastructure in Pakistan has been destroyed.

"Their back has been broken. About 700 foreigners have been caught, and they are on the run," he said. "Their sanctuaries, their command and control bases, their logistic bases, their communication bases [are] all destroyed."

He spoke Thursday to reporters in Islamabad. He went on to say that the rugged valleys near the Afghan border that al Qaida militants were using for training and other subversive activities are now under the control of the Pakistani military.

"Having done that, they are in the mountains. They cannot move in vehicles," said Mr. Musharraf. "There was a time when they could sit in a vehicle and come to Lahore and go to Karachi."

Since joining the U.S.-led war on terrorism, Pakistan has conducted numerous operations against suspected al Qaida forces who fled there from Afghanistan in the wake of U.S. military strikes in 2001.

Some of the militants were arrested in Karachi and Lahore, Pakistan's two largest cities.

President Musharraf says that Pakistani security forces have killed hundreds of suspected local and foreign terrorists.

However, he adds neither U.S. nor Pakistani intelligence agencies have any clue as to the whereabouts of al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

In other remarks, President Musharraf dismissed suggestions Pakistan is making concessions in talks with rival India to try to settle the Kashmir dispute.

He said the recent breakthrough allowing a bus service between Indian and Pakistani-held areas of Kashmir does not mean Pakistan would stop pushing for a final solution of the entire Kashmir issue.

"It is a stepping stone toward normalization. It is not a substitute to Kashmir solution," explained President Musharraf.

The bus service is scheduled to start on April 7, reuniting Kashmiri families for the first time since the region was divided in 1947, when Pakistan and India gained independence from Britain.

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