Pakistani security forces backed by helicopter gunships attacked a militant training camp near the Afghan border yesterday, killing at least four foreign rebels, security officials said.
Soldiers raided the training camp at Zargarkhel village in North Waziristan after militants refused to meet a peace delegation flown in by helicopter and opened fire, military spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad said.
He said that security forces had sealed off the area after "confirmed reports that miscreants were operating a terrorist training facility in Zargarkhel."
"When they opened fire, we had to start an operation," he said.
The gunfight was continuing, he said.
The clash took place about 30km south of the main town of Miran Shah.
Arshad said the identities and nationalities of the militants were not clear.
A local intelligence official said the training facility in the Zarga Khel area was believed used by local militants.
However, another official said it was an Uzbek training center.
"The dead were foreigners," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Tribal elders, accompanied by security forces, came under fire from about 15 to 20 militants, the local intelligence official said, requesting anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media.
He added army helicopter gunships then destroyed the camp.
Late Friday, local militants kidnapped eight government officials, including five women, inspecting sites for new schools, roads and hospitals in North Waziristan. They were still missing yesterday.
Pakistan reached a peace deal with pro-Taliban militants in North Waziristan last September to stop attacks on security forces inside Pakistan and Afghanistan and expel foreign militants. Local tribal leaders are responsible for overseeing the deal's implementation.
Over the weekend, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said in a TV interview that Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network was present in Pakistan's tribal areas in the form of "foreigners" including Uzbeks and Arabs.
US officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney who visited Islamabad in February, have warned that the al-Qaeda network has been regrouping in the Pakistani tribal belt.
Bin Laden and hundreds of his fighters are believed to have fled towards northwest Pakistan after US-led forces ousted the Taliban regime in Afghanistan late in 2001.
Meanwhile, suspected Islamic militants blew up a music shop in a grenade attack on the interior minister's village in northwestern Pakistan, police said yesterday.
The shop, which sold local and foreign music, was destroyed in the attack late Monday in Sherpao village, 25km outside Peshawar, senior police officer Feroz Shah said.
The village is named after the clan of Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao, who frequently returns to his ancestral home.
Shah said two militants on a bicycle lobbed a hand grenade into the Wahab Music Center and fled. A police squad on motorcycles chased and arrested one man, while the other escaped.
A dental clinic and a computer business were also damaged in the blast, he said.
Sherpao survived a major suicide attack in a nearby village in April in which 29 people were killed. He suffered injuries to his ear, leg and hands in the bombing.
Traders in the local town of Charsada earlier said they had been warned to stop selling music and videos because pro-Taliban Islamists considered them to be repugnant to the teachings of Islam.