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10 Pakistani Troops, 2 Suspected al-Qaida Fighters Die In Gunbattle - 2002-06-26


Pakistani officials say two suspected al-Qaida fighters and 10 Pakistani soldiers have been killed in a gunbattle in a lawless region bordering Afghanistan.

Officials say the two army officers died during an hours-long battle that erupted late Tuesday near the town of Wana, the headquarters of South Waziristan tribal region.

The Pakistani soldiers raided a house in the region following a U-S tip that al-Qaida fighters from Afghanistan were using the building as a hideout. U-S military officials say the region has given sanctuary to as many as one-thousand al-Qaida fighters and leaders. The area is largely outside the control of Islamabad and is dominated by local tribal leaders.

U-S and British troops have scoured the Afghan side of the border for weeks, finding several weapons caches, but few fighters.

The Associated Press reports 100 U-S soldiers and 50 Afghan fighters are searching the mountains of Kunar province along the Pakistan border where a former Taleban official says al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden had several hideouts. U-S officials say the operation was launched after clues suggested important Taleban or al-Qaida leaders could be in the area.

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