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Pakistan Launches Another Offensive Against al-Qaida - 2004-06-17

Security forces in Pakistan have launched a fresh offensive against al Qaida linked militants in a mountainous region on the border with Afghanistan. Clashes between Pakistani troops and alleged terrorists erupted earlier this month and have killed more than 50 militants and 18 government soldiers so far.

Witnesses says troops backed by helicopter gunships are attacking an alleged terrorist hideout in the Angor Adda area, close to the Afghan border. Pakistan military spokesman Major-General Shaukat Sultan gave details of the operation.

"We have got some information about [a] few miscreants hiding there and that is why this target has been selected," he said. "And wherever there are miscreants in other hideouts they would also be knocked out till they are finally eliminated or they voluntarily surrender."

General Sultan says the latest military activity is part of at operation that started last week in response to deadly attacks on security forces by suspected terrorists.

On Sunday, the Pakistani military ended a five-day offensive against two suspected al-Qaida safe houses and a terrorist training facility. Like Angor Adda, they are in the tribal region known as South Waziristan.

Officials say that more than 50 militants were killed and at least 10 were arrested in the operations last week. The military lost 18 soldiers in that fighting.

Pakistan's government says hundreds of foreign al-Qaida suspects, including Arabs, Chechens, and Uzbeks, are hiding in the region and are being protected by local tribesmen.