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Sunday, 4 August, 2002, 09:52 GMT 10:52 UK
Pakistan detains al-Qaeda 'protector'
Pakistan soldiers man outpost near June gunfight
Troops are patrolling mountain passes along the border
A tribal elder in Pakistan accused of sheltering suspected al-Qaeda fighters has surrendered, the authorities say.

Abdul Khaliq gave himself up after mediation by his local chief in Wana, a town in the remote South Waziristan area of North West Frontier Province.

Mr Khaliq is suspected of running a safe house for militants of Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, who are accused of killing at least 10 Pakistani soldiers in a clash in June.

Map
Thousands of Pakistani troops have been stationed in the rugged semi-autonomous tribal region bordering Afghanistan in an attempt to track down Taleban and al-Qaeda fighters still active in the area.

The militants are believed to have crossed into Pakistan after a US-led military campaign toppled Afghanistan's Taleban authorities late last year.

Police have been searching for Mr Khaliq since the 25 June gunfight at his mud-brick "fortress" in which the suspected militants were hiding.

His handover took place in front of dozens of members of the Sarkakhel tribe to which he belongs.

In return, dozens of tribesmen detained following the clash have been released and restrictions have been eased on local shopkeepers, the AFP news agency quoted officials as saying.

Tribal fears

The June gunfight took place in Kazha Panga village, some 30 kilometres (20 miles) from the border with the Afghan province of Paktika.

Tribesmen in Miran Shah
Tribal areas have their own laws
The four-hour clash was the first time that suspected al-Qaeda fighters had engaged Pakistani forces in the region since President Pervez Musharraf ordered troops to the border in December.

Two men believed to be al-Qaeda fighters were also killed in the gunfight.

Pakistan had until recently resisted US pressure to launch large-scale search operations in the border region for fear of provoking tribal opposition.

But army officials say they have received the full co-operation of tribal leaders in North and South Waziristan, previously considered no-go areas.

The tribal areas, set up after partition from India, stretch for hundreds of kilometres along the border with Afghanistan.

Although strictly speaking part of Pakistan, they have their own laws and customs and the authorities' writ does not run there.

Musharraf's Pakistan

Democracy challenge

Militant threat

Background

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

BBC WORLD SERVICE
See also:

27 Jun 02 | South Asia
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