PESHAWAR, Pakistan – Pakistani security forces cracked down Wednesday on two tribes accused of sheltering Al Qaeda suspects, arresting members, destroying homes and seizing vehicles, a government official said.
The action came less than a week after Pakistani soldiers raided three homes in the area along the Afghan border, starting a shootout that killed eight suspected Al Qaeda members.
Two soldiers died and 18 Al Qaeda suspects were captured in the Oct. 2 raid, Pakistan's largest offensive yet against Usama bin Laden's terror network.
Authorities have not disclosed the identities or the loyalties of the 18 captured men, who are still being questioned.
Three men who owned the homes where the Al Qaeda suspects were hiding were asked to surrender by Tuesday, said Anwar Ali Shah, deputy administration chief at Wana, the headquarters of the fiercely autonomous Waziristan (search) region.
"We began arresting the members of two tribes on Wednesday," he said. "Now they will face a collective punishment."
Shah refused to say how many people were taken into custody or when they will be charged. "We will take such action against them throughout the country if needed," he said.
Pakistani tribal laws allow authorities to arrest the entire tribe if any of its members break the law. Such actions can continue until the wanted men surrender.
Pakistan has been a key ally of the United States in the war on terror.
The country's police and intelligence agencies have so far arrested more than 450 Al Qaeda suspects since the U.S.-led coalition launched operations in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.