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At least 10 Dead in Pakistani Clash with Arab al-Qaida Prisoners - 2001-12-19


A gunbattle between Pakistani soldiers and Arab al-Qaida fighters captured just inside Pakistan's mountainous border with Afghanistan, has left at least 10 people dead -- including soldiers and prisoners.

Pakistani officials say the shooting started while the prisoners were being transferred to a jail in northern Pakistan. The Arab prisoners -- mostly from Yemen -- seized weapons from their captors and opened fire near the Pakistani border town of Parachinar.

Local authorities say as many as 35 al-Qaida terrorists escaped into the semi-autonomous Pashtun tribal area during the firefight. The prisoners were believed to be among 250 terrorists who fled the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan.

Pakistani forces have been patrolling the border with Afghanistan to prevent al-Qaida members from seeking refuge in remote tribal areas of northwest Pakistan.

The clash came as U-S forces in Afghanistan stepped up the hunt for Osama bin Laden and other top al-Qaida terrorists. U-S special forces are searching cave by cave in the Tora Bora region, sometimes with the help of Afghan allies. U-S special forces and intelligence agents are interrogating war prisoners captured by Afghan anti-Taleban forces.

A search also is underway in the mountains of south-central Afghanistan for Taleban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar. Kandahar city's new intelligence chief (Haji Gulalai) says the Taleban leader is in the Baghran region of Helmand province, while most of his top associates have fled to Pakistan.

In Washington Tuesday, U-S Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz warned against giving refuge to Osama bin Laden -- pointing to what has happened to the Taleban. He said any country knowingly harboring Osama bin Laden would be, in Mr. Wolfowitz's words, out of their minds.

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