230 al-Qaeda suspects arrested
From correspondents in Islamabad
October 27, 2003
PAKISTAN has netted 230 al-Qaeda suspects in a military operation in the northwestern tribal region bordering Afghanistan this month, state media said Sunday, quoting a senior commander.
The operation launched on October 2 is continuing in phases, Corps commander Lieutenant-General Ali Muhammad Jan Aurakzai told a team of foreign diplomats yesterday, according to the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP).
Three phases have been completed in the rugged tribal terrain and the fourth phase of the operation, named al-Meezan (balance), is under way, he told about 20 ambassadors and military attaches at the Corp Headquarters in the northwestern city of Peshawar.
During the operation, more than 230 suspects believed to belong to the al-Qaeda terrorist group have been rounded up while 10 others were killed, Aurakzai said, according to the APP report. It did not identify their nationalities.
Ten Pakistani military personnel were killed in the operation, the news agency quoted the general as saying.
In a major operation against suspected al-Qaeda fighters in the border town of Angoor Adda in the South Waziristan tribal area, hundreds of commandos surrounded the suspects’ hideouts on October 2.
Eight fighters and two Pakistani troops were killed in the ensuing battle while 18 Taliban and al-Qaeda suspects were captured.
Two Pakistani army soldiers were also killed in the October 2 encounter.
Angoor Ada faces Afghanistan’s Shkin district and is just 15km from the Afghan town of Barmal, part of which was reportedly controlled by Taliban.
US troops hunting Taliban and al-Qaeda remnants in Afghanistan have frequently been thwarted by the fugitives escaping over the border into Pakistan’s tribal areas.
The 18 arrested from Angoor Adda were Uzbeks, Afghans and Pakistani nationals, intelligence officials said earlier.
Local residents deny any of them were al-Qaeda or Taliban members, and have accused the government of carrying out the operation to appease the United States.
The diplomats from countries including Australia, Brazil, Britain, Japan, Russia and Turkey also visited the tribal district of Mohmand, which borders the eastern Afghan province of Kunar.
Meanwhile, police said another al-Qaeda suspect has been detained in Faisalabad in central Punjab province, the fourth such arrest in the industrial city in a week.
The Arabic-speaking man was arrested in a raid yesterday, following information obtained from three other al-Qaeda suspects held in Faisalabad earlier in the week, they said.
Preliminary investigations have shown the men had fled from the October 2 operation, the sources said.
Abu Zubaydah, a top lieutenant of Osama bin Laden, was captured in Faisalabad in March last year.
Officials say more than 500 al-Qaeda suspects have been rounded up in the country, including three key associates of bin Laden, since Pakistan joined the US-led war against terrorism two years ago.
The majority of those arrested are now in the US custody at the US Guantanamo Bay detention centre in Cuba.