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Anti-Taliban operation in Pakistan; 32 dead

March 17, 2004 00:11 IST
Last Updated: March 17, 2004 10:01 IST

Twenty-four Al Qaeda and Taliban supporters were killed in clashes on Tuesday between Pakistani forces and tribesmen in Wana on the border with Afghanistan, a military spokesman said.

Eighteen suspects were picked up while eight Pakistani soldiers died and fifteen were injured, army spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan said.

The fighting started soon after the paramilitary forces moved into a village near Wana in the South Waziristan region to arrest pro-Taliban tribesmen, officials said.

But as they entered the area, they came under attack from two directions. The security forces responded using light machine guns and mortars.

The operation in Pakistan came a day after President Pervez Musharraf expressed determination to rid the rugged tribal belt of foreign terrorists, including Al Qaeda elements.

CNN reported quoting intelligence sources that most of those killed or captured are non-Pakistanis. It said that the US is planning a spring offensive on the Afghanistan side of the border hoping to catch Al Qaeda and Taliban members in the middle.

However, the US is not expected to increase its troop level in Afghanistan beyond 11,000.

Incidentally, US Secretary of State Colin Powell is slated to visit Pakistan within the next few days as part of his South Asia tour.

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