PESHAWAR, Pakistan – Pakistan said Tuesday that an operation involving helicopter gunships and thousands of troops destroyed a major al-Qaida hide-out and led to the arrests of 21 suspected militants in a remote northwestern tribal region near Afghanistan.
Lt. Gen. Safdar Hussain, the army commander responsible for anti-terrorism operations in northwestern Pakistan, told reporters that foreigners and “some important men are included among the captured people,” although he refused to reveal identities or nationalities.
The al-Qaida hide-out appeared to be a fairly sophisticated outpost, Hussain said, with communications equipment to contact militants in Afghanistan, a cache of bombs, detonators and rockets, and a tiny Chinese-made drone aircraft used for surveillance.
Hussain called it the “biggest-ever operation” in the lawless North Waziristan region and said it was still going on after four days.
“As a result of this operation, a center of al-Qaida and terrorists has been destroyed and the back of al-Qaida and terrorists has been broken in the tribal areas because terrorist activities were carried out from here,” he said.
The operation coincided with a visit by Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf to the United States, where he said Pakistan is winning the war on terror.
“We are on the winning side because al-Qaida has been neutralized,” Musharraf told CNN. “They cease to exist as a homogeneous body. We have broken their vertical and horizontal communication linkages. They are on the run.”
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