ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Army troops killed 30 tribesman suspected of shielding Al Qaeda (search) fugitives, a senior Pakistani security official said Wednesday, bringing the death toll from a counterterrorism sweep along the Afghan border to 100.
As many as 70 "foreign terrorists" were also killed in the operation, which ended last week, said Brig. Mahmood Shah, the head of security in Pakistan's northwestern tribal regions. He told The Associated Press that it was unclear whether any leading Al Qaeda figures were among the dead.
Among the dead were Nek Mohammed (search), a renegade tribal leader accused of sheltering Al Qaeda fugitives. He was killed last week in a missile strike on a mud-brick compound near Wana, the main town in South Waziristan. Six other people died in the assault.
Shah said Mohammed was a "criminal" who supported Al Qaeda suspects for "monetary gains."
Mohammed led resistance against a massive Pakistani military operation in South Waziristan (search) in March in which 120 people were killed, including 48 security forces.
In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp., Mohammed called for the overthrow of the Pakistani and Afghan governments.
Shah said the tribal leader admitted he was behind attacks on army troops in South Waziristan and Karachi, where a senior military official earlier this month escaped an assassination attempt.
He later agreed to cooperate with the government and turn over foreign militants, but reneged.
"He was given enough time to change himself, but he wasted the opportunity," Shah said.
After Mohammed's death, local tribesmen were helping Pakistani authorities in their efforts to find Al Qaeda figures "more willingly," Shah said.
He said troops had searched 172 homes in border regions in the past two weeks, but no militants or weapons were found.
Afghan officials and the U.S. military, which is pursuing Al Qaeda on the Afghan side of the border, have pressed Islamabad to step up military activity in the lawless border regions. The area is considered a possible hideout for Al Qaeda chief Usama bin Laden.