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Pakistan attacks militant hideouts, killing 15

Pakistan army helicopter gunships killed at least 15 Al-Qaeda militants, mostly Uzbeks, in a pre-dawn raid near the Afghan border on Sunday.

world Updated: Aug 19, 2007 19:14 IST

Pakistan army helicopter gunships killed at least 15 Al-Qaeda militants, mostly Uzbeks, in a pre-dawn raid near the Afghan border on Sunday, a military spokesman said.

Major General Waheed Arshad told Reuters the gunships pounded two militant hideouts for several hours near Mir Ali town in the North Waziristan tribal region.

"We have credible information that the two compounds have been destroyed and 15 miscreants, including 10 Uzbeks, have been killed in the strike," Arshad said.

Many radical Islamists from Uzbekistan have taken refuge in the Pakistani tribal lands and forged ties with al Qaeda in the past decade.

The military spokesman said militants were not only attacking security forces from the compounds but also making bombs there.

He said no infantry soldiers were engaged in the operation.

Intelligence officials in Mir Ali said two women and two children also died in the strike.

In neighbouring South Waziristan, tribal elders and clerics were making efforts to secure the release of 16 paramilitary soldiers abducted on August 9.

Both South and North Waziristan are regarded as hotbeds of support for al Qaeda and Taliban.

Violence has intensified since July, following the breakdown of a 10-month peace deal with militants in North Waziristan and the storming by the army of a radical mosque in the capital, Islamabad.

Ten soldiers and 17 militants have been killed in bomb attacks and clashes in the Waziristan region since Thursday. More than 200 people, mostly soldiers and police, have been killed in the northwest since last month.

The violence is one more headache for President Pervez Musharraf as he seeks re-election for another five-year term next month or in October.