Sat, Aug 11, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Gunships kill 10 in Waziristan

RETRIBUTION Al-Qaeda and Taliban-linked militants have launched attacks in North Waziristan almost daily since ending a truce with the government last month


Army helicopter gunships attacked two trucks and as many cars carrying militants fleeing the bombing of a military convoy in northwestern Pakistan on Thursday, killing at least 10 fighters, an official said.

The operation was carried out in the North Waziristan tribal region after a bomb explosion near the convoy left five soldiers wounded, army spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad said.

Between 10 and 12 militants were killed in the strafing, Arshad said, adding that the toll could rise.

Violence has escalated in the region and militants have launched attacks almost every day since renouncing a peace accord with the government last month.

In South Waziristan, another tribal area bordering North Waziristan, about half a dozen armed men, wearing masks abducted 16 paramilitary soldiers after they left a base to go home on leave, an intelligence official said.

The soldiers were in a van which the kidnappers commandeered at a roadblock near the town of Tank and took to off an unknown destination, the official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make media comments.

In the North Waziristan attacks, Arshad said helicopters chased the militants -- who were carrying rocket launchers and small arms -- as they fled after carrying out the bombing into a petrol station, then in their vehicles.

Al-Qaeda and Taliban-linked Arab, Central Asia and Afghan militants operate in the two tribal regions which border Afghanistan.

Pakistan, a key US ally in the war against terrorists, has deployed around 90,000 troops to its border regions with Afghanistan to hunt down militants.

Pakistan has faced increasing pressure from US and Afghan officials to do more to eliminate militants from its territory.

Meanwhile in Islamabad, police were hunting late on Thursday for a man they suspected may have been a suicide bomber after a taxi driver alerted them.

The man, who appeared to be in his 20s and sported a small beard, told the driver of a taxi he had hired that "I and you are going to be martyrs," said Zafar Iqbal, Islamabad city police chief.

Scared, the taxi driver stopped by a downtown police station, ran in to inform officers about his suspicious passenger but found that the man had fled along with the cab, Iqbal said.

The taxi was later found abandoned at a large square near the Parliament building and dozens of police began a search for the man in the neighborhood, Iqbal said.

Security has been stepped up in Islamabad since two suicide bombings struck the capital last month in which a total of 29 people were killed.

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