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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 August 2007, 13:14 GMT 14:14 UK
Pakistan army strikes tribal area
Pakistani soldier near Miran Shah
Violence has escalated since the army stormed the Red Mosque
Pakistani troops, backed by helicopter gunships and artillery, have launched an attack on a militant base in North Waziristan, army officials say.

The operation was in the Degan area, 27km (17 miles) from the main town of the region, Miranshah.

Fighting lasted up to four hours but there was no word on casualties.

The US says North Waziristan, a tribal region that borders Afghanistan, is a safe haven for the Taleban and al-Qaeda but Pakistan denies the claim.

Violence has escalated in Pakistan and more than 200 people have been killed since troops stormed the radical Red Mosque in Islamabad in July.

Pakistan anger

The security forces targeted the militant compound in Degan after receiving "credible intelligence that miscreants were present there", Maj Gen Waheed Arshad told the Associated Press news agency.

Map of NW Pakistan

Witnesses in Degan told Reuters news agency that helicopters destroyed three houses. They said the army was using mortars and artillery too.

A Reuters reporter in Miranshah said he had seen eight helicopter gunships heading in the direction of Degan.

At least three civilians were hurt in the shelling but most people had left the affected area, having feared an assault.

The attack came as President Pervez Musharraf called for a comprehensive strategy to deal with radicals.

Gen Musharraf was meeting a visiting US senator, Richard Durbin, in the southern port city of Karachi.

Pakistan has been angered about recent statements coming out of the US, particularly from presidential candidate Barack Obama, who said he would consider direct attacks against militants within Pakistan.

Gen Musharraf said: "The president pointed out that certain recent US statements were counter-productive to the close cooperation and coordination between the two countries in combating the threat of terrorism."

On Monday, foreign ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said the issue could threaten relations.

"There is no al-Qaeda or Taleban safe haven in Pakistan," she said.




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