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Pakistani Security Forces Attack Militant Hideout

Pakistani security forces have launched another attack on a suspected militant hideout in a restive tribal region near the Afghan border. Officials say the attack targeted a senior member of the al-Qaida terrorist network.

Pakistani authorities have confirmed that a number of helicopter gunships attacked the suspected hideout late Wednesday, killing at least six people.

Local officials said Thursday the attack targeted Egyptian-born Muhsin Musa Matwalli Atwah, considered a senior member of al-Qaida.

Atwah is wanted in connection with the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa. The United States has posted a $5 million reward for his capture.

Pakistan government spokesman, Major General Shaukat Sultan, would not confirm reports that Atwah died Wednesday, but said foreign militants were among those killed.

"We had confirmed intelligence about the presence of foreign militants there. It was very quick," he said. "It was a compound and two vehicles also were hit by the Cobra gunships."

The attack took place in Nagar, six kilometers south of Miranshah, the main town of the North Waziristan region.

The air assault is the latest in a series of government raids over the past two months in the region. More than 250 suspected militants have been killed.

Intelligence reports suggest hundreds of Islamic militants are based in the remote tribal area, including pro-Taleban and al-Qaida militants from neighboring Afghanistan, central Asia, and the Middle East.

Local criminal gangs, including drug traffickers are also reportedly gaining ground.

Pakistan has deployed about 70,000 troops to the area but security experts say that, so far, there is no indication the government's operations are restoring order.

Pakistani analyst Talat Masood says there is, however, evidence that a resurgent Taleban is filling the security vacuum.

"The Taleban are making inroads," he said. "It is not really so much because of their own success. It is because of the failure of the government policy. They [the local residents] think the Taleban can at least restore order and be a better alternative."

Pro-Taleban clerics and their supporters have imposed their own hard-line legal system in the area and are enforcing Taleban style social rules, including a ban on music.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has vowed to wipe out militant bases in the tribal regions. He recently warned all foreign militants to leave the country or be killed.