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Monday, 29 April, 2002, 13:29 GMT 14:29 UK
Musharraf confirms US troops in action
US forces at their Bagram headquarters north of Kabul
US and allied troops are still hunting al-Qaeda fighters
Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has confirmed that US troops are operating with Pakistani forces looking for al-Qaeda fighters in Pakistan's mountainous borders with Afghanistan.


There are some officials for communication purposes, but they are not fighting.

President Pervez Musharraf

Until now, Pakistani officials had denied US press reports that American forces were operating inside Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal regions, an issue considered sensitive by many Pakistanis.

General Musharraf, however, said only a handful of US troops were involved and they were communications specialists who did not play any combat roles.

He said these "communications experts" were helping Pakistani forces maintain contact with US forces operating across the border in eastern Afghanistan.

General Musharraf said fewer than 10 US soldiers were working with the Pakistani forces looking for armed militants in western Pakistan.

Playing down

On Saturday, local people in south Waziristan tribal agency said Pakistani troops aided by some foreign soldiers raided a religious school set up by a former minister in Afghanistan's ousted Taleban government.

General Pervez Musharraf
President Musharraf is seeking an extension

This was the first such report of a joint US-Pakistan operation to come out of the tribal area.

A Pakistan-based news agency said US troops were searching for Maulvi Jalaluddin Haqqani, a former Taleban minister and also a famous anti-Soviet guerrilla commander from the 1980s.

Sensitivity

Pakistan has allowed the US to use several air bases and other logistical facilities, and shared intelligence on al-Qaeda and the Taleban with US forces operating in the region.

Angry Pakistanis burn a US flag in protest against its military operations
Pockets of anti-US sentiments remain strong

General Musharraf has also launched a campaign against Muslim militants active in Pakistan.

Many Pakistani's oppose Islamabad's close identification with the US-led war against terror and his crackdown on domestic militants.

General Musharraf, seeking an extension of his presidency in a referendum scheduled for Tuesday, is campaigning for support for his policies from a broad spectrum of Pakistanis.

Observers say he sought to mollify his critics by pointing out that the US troops were not directly engaged in combat.

See also:

27 Apr 02 | South Asia
US forces 'join Pakistani raid'
14 Feb 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Pakistan
14 Feb 02 | South Asia
Warm praise for Musharraf in US
03 Apr 02 | Americas
'Key' al-Qaeda recruiter captured
04 Mar 02 | Americas
Analysis: Last stand or long war?
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