Sun, Sep 18, 2005 - Page 4 News List

Pakistani forces guard against militants

AFP , PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN

Thousands of Pakistani troops backed by gunship helicopters patrolled the border with Afghanistan yesterday to stop militants crossing to attack key Afghan elections, the military said.

About 80,000 troops deployed to the rugged Pakistan tribal areas bordering Afghanistan ahead of today's parliamentary elections were on alert and had taken positions to seal the border, a military statement said. Troops were also tracking suspected militants thought to be hiding in the remote North Waziristan tribal area near the border with Afghanistan, a military spokesman said.

Hundreds of militants from Afghanistan's fundamentalist Taliban regime are believed to have fled to Pakistan with their al-Qaeda allies after US-led forces brought their reign to an end in late 2001.

Afghan officials say militants cross the porous border to launch attacks in Afghanistan and then return to hideouts in Pakistan.

Pakistan's army established 760 posts along a key 600km stretch of the border to stop militants crossing over ahead of the election, the military statement issued in the northwestern city of Peshawar said.

Troops had been given orders to "maintain extra vigilance and foil attempts by terrorists to sabotage the political exercise in the neighboring country," top military commander Lieutenant General Safdar Hussain said.

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