Militant With Suspected Al Qaeda Links Killed in Pakistan
PESHAWAR, Pakistan – A suspected Islamic militant linked to top Al Qaeda leaders was killed Thursday along with a security official in a gunfight at a roadblock near the Afghan border, according to an intelligence agent and the Pakistani army.
Also Thursday, militants ambushed a convoy of Pakistani troops in a northwestern tribal region near the Afghan border, killing seven soldiers and wounding 22, an army spokesman said.
The shootout began when security officials signaled a vehicle carrying the suspected militant to halt at a roadblock in the remote northwestern Bajur tribal region, and the suspect opened fire, army spokesman Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan said.
Two local intelligence agents, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment to the media, said the slain militant was an Arab and had links with Al Qaeda.
One of the agents said authorities had found a video camera, a laptop computer, hand grenades and other documents in the man's vehicle.
Another said the man's body had been transported to a hospital in the northwestern city of Peshawar for a DNA test. He did not identify the slain man, but claimed he was a Saudi national and had links with top Al Qaeda leaders.
One security official died at the scene of Thursday's gunbattle and two others were wounded, Sultan said, adding the retaliatory fire also killed the suspect, who appeared to be a foreigner.
In January, a U.S. missile strike purportedly targeted Al Qaeda No. 2 leader Ayman al-Zawahiri at a village in Bajur.
Pakistani intelligence officials say that the strike missed al-Zawahiri but hit several other senior Al Qaeda figures, although their bodies have not been found. Thirteen villagers also died.
Usama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar are believed to be in the rugged Pakistan-Afghan border region.
After Thursday's ambush on the convoy, hundreds of soldiers backed by helicopter gunships hunted for the attackers, believed to have fled to a village near the site of the ambush on the outskirts of Miran Shah, the main town in North Waziristan, security officials said.
Sultan, the army spokesman, said five to eight militants were killed in the ensuing gunbattle as security forces fought an unspecified number of militants.
Earlier, an Associated Press reporter heard artillery fire and gunshots, but troops mounted a roadblock, preventing journalists from reaching the scene of the fighting.
Sultan said seven troops were killed and 22 wounded in the militant attack on three vehicles.
The injured troops, from the paramilitary Frontier Corps, were transported by helicopter to a hospital in nearby Bannu town, and the security official said at least three soldiers were listed in critical condition.
Pakistan is a key U.S. ally in its campaign against terrorism, and North Waziristan and nearby tribal areas have been the scene of scores of military operations against remnants of the Taliban, Al Qaeda network and their local supporters in the past two years. Pakistan has deployed about 80,000 troops in the border region, and hundreds of militants and troops have been killed in fighting.
Thursday's attack took place near where the military on April 12 killed seven terror suspects. Senior officials said the dead including an Egyptian, Mohsin Musa Matawalli Atwah, 45, who was on the FBI's list of most-wanted terrorists for alleged involvement in 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya that killed more than 200 people, including 12 Americans.