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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 May, 2005, 19:28 GMT 20:28 UK
Pakistan 'clears al-Qaeda haven'
Pakistani troops in South Waziristan
Pakistan says it has destroyed militant bases in South Waziristan
Pakistani troops have crushed militant networks in the restive tribal area of South Waziristan near the Afghanistan border, a senior officer says.

Regional commander Maj Gen Niaz Khattak said al-Qaeda fighters had either been killed, captured or driven north.

He said he had seen no trace of fugitive al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden during the long operation.

Troops are now focusing on developing infrastructure as well as medical and educational facilities, he added.

Gen Khattak said his forces had killed 306 militants and arrested 700 others since the start of military operations in the area more than a year ago.

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He said he believed between 500 and 600 fighters linked to al-Qaeda had been in the region last year.

"According to our intelligence reports, now we think there is absolutely none in South Waziristan," Gen Khattak told journalists.

He added that those killed included about 100 foreigners, and that about 250 Pakistani troops had died in the military campaign.

Capture hopes

But even as Pakistani troops declared operations over in South Waziristan, they came under pressure from US commanders in Afghanistan to mount an assault to the north, where militants are believed to have fled.

Gen Khattak rejected the call, saying fighters were operating in small groups and that intelligence did not point to the need for an offensive.

The BBC's Paul Anderson in Islamabad says the Americans probably have bigger fish in mind - Bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri.

The Pakistanis insist that in 10 months there has been no trace of either man.

Our correspondent says that hopes are still alive that a senior al-Qaeda suspect arrested earlier this month, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, will yield details of Bin Laden's whereabouts.

So far the authorities are saying no clues have emerged.


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Hear the commander's statement on militants in South Waziristan



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