Pakistan Hunts for Top Al-Qaeda Member After Air Strike

Pakistani security forces on Wednesday hunted for 10 injured militants including a senior Al-Qaeda member after an army air strike destroyed a training camp near the Afghan border.

Early Tuesday, helicopter gunships knocked out a compound in the Zamazula area of South Waziristan tribal district, 360 kilometers (225 miles) southwest of the capital Islamabad, killing an unknown number of militants.

Military officials initially said up to 30 militants were believed killed although authorities later said they had so far found only eight bodies.

Among those who escaped was Abu Nasser, who holds a senior position in Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network, according to security sources.

"Tuesday's raid was launched after intelligence reports that Nasser is using the place as a base to train militants," said a senior security official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"He was injured in the attack but he managed to slip out of the compound along with four other Arab accomplices," he said, without giving details about Nasser's nationality or position in Al-Qaeda. "He is being searched for now."

The strike was the first in South Waziristan since authorities signed an agreement with tribal elders in February 2005, sparking nearly two years of relative peace.

Locals alleged the strike killed Afghan labourers and two local tribesmen who were cutting woods in the forest.

President Pervez Musharraf said Tuesday the military would knock out any hideout or terrorist training camp wherever it was found in the tribal areas.

He gave the warning while chairing a meeting of top commanders at the military's General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.

Pakistan has come under renewed pressure from US and NATO-led forces based in Afghanistan to crack down on Taliban militants allegedly using the country's tribal territory for cross-border infiltration and attacks inside Afghanistan.

Pakistan has captured around 700 Al-Qaeda fugitives since they were forced to flee from Afghanistan after the defeat of the Taliban regime in late 2001.

Source : AFP

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