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Analysts: Al Qaeda has safe haven in Pakistan frontier

Story Highlights

• Pakistan-Afghanistan border seen as al Qaeda host, intelligence official says
• View stems from recent Pakistani government pact with tribal leaders
• U.S. has long suspected area was haven for Taliban, as well
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Pakistan's tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan have become an accepted haven for al Qaeda leaders such as Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, a senior U.S. intelligence official told CNN on Wednesday.

That's not a formal assessment, the official said, but a growing view by U.S. intelligence analysts in the months since the Pakistani government reached an agreement with tribal authorities to not threaten the region's autonomy as long as the tribes agreed not to harbor foreigners.

The official told CNN that "the training camps are full" in the region, suggesting al Qaeda activity.

"This is a real safe haven to operate from. I am not talking about Taliban, I am talking about al Qaeda central," he said, referring to core members of al Qaeda. (Watch President Bush outline successes against terrorism Video)

The official said that before the agreement, Pakistani authorities were able to impede the ability of al Qaeda to regroup in the region. Now, the official said, it is easier for al Qaeda to operate.

U.S. military officials for some months have said the region became a Taliban haven because the agreement had no real enforcement penalties. There had been a strong suspicions that many of the attacks in Afghanistan have been organized by Taliban elements based inside Pakistan.

NATO-led coalition forces in Afghanistan mistakenly fired on a Pakistani post Monday near Shawal, North Waziristan, in the border region, a Pakistan Army spokesman told CNN.

One Pakistani soldier was killed and two were wounded in the errant attack. NATO said responsibility for the mistake was "unclear."

On Monday, al-Zawahiri released his latest videotape taunting the United States over the Iraq war and anti-terror efforts.

Al-Zawahiri rejected President Bush's earlier contention that U.S. forces have deprived al Qaeda of haven in Afghanistan, calling the claim a "naked, barefaced lie."



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