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Pakistan calls off 'terror' sweep

From CNN Islamabad Bureau Chief Ash-har Quraishi

Government officials, sitting on chairs, meet with tribal people to discuss matters of giving shelter to foreigners or al Qaeda militants.
Government officials, sitting on chairs, meet with tribal people to discuss matters of giving shelter to foreigners or al Qaeda militants.

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistani military and paramilitary forces have suspended their sweep for "suspected foreign terrorists" along the rugged, lawless border with Afghanistan, military officials said.

No one was taken into custody, although tribal members were being questioned, according to officials, in hopes of finding new leads in their search.

Working off intelligence information, the operation was launched early Thursday morning west of Wana in the country's mountainous South Waziristan region -- deeply conservative tribal areas along the semi-autonomous border region in the nation's northwest.

Military troops and suspected terrorists exchanged fire Thursday, but there were no casualties, according to Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan, a Pakistan military spokesman.

It is believed the elements of former Afghan rulers the Taliban as well as al Qaeda may be trying to regroup or are hiding out in the region. Some also believe Osama bin Laden may also be in the area.

The operation is at least the second major raid in South Waziristan in recent months.

In a similar operation last October, Pakistani military forces killed eight suspected al Qaeda members and captured 18 others in Angoor Adda near Wana. Two Pakistani soldiers died in that raid.

Afghan and U.S. officials have regularly complained that Pakistan is not doing enough to prevent Taliban and al Qaeda militants from crossing into Pakistan from Afghanistan to seek shelter.

Pakistan has denied the claims and says it is doing all it can to seal what is largely a porous border in its tribal regions.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has been a staunch supporter of the U.S.-led war on terror, much to the irritation of Islamic hardliners in Pakistan.


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