20 March 2004
Pakistani military officials say they have arrest 100 suspected members of the al-Qaida terror network in an operation in northwest Pakistan.
Pakistan General Safdar Hussein says a number of foreign fighters are among those captured. It was not immediately clear whether any high ranking al-Qaida officials have been detained.
Pakistani forces have been pounding a remote region near the Afghan border, where reports have suggested that Ayman al-Zawahiri, a senior aide to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, may be hiding.
Bursts of automatic fire erupted after daybreak Saturday around several mountainous villages, indicating heavy resistance by the militants.
Pakistani officials say several hundred foreign fighters and local tribesmen are believed to be hiding in heavily fortified compounds in a mountainous region in South Waziristan.
The semiautonomous region, which has resisted outside control for centuries, has long been considered a likely hiding place for al-Qaida leadership.
Several kilometers away, on the Afghan side of the border, U.S. and Afghan forces have strengthened their positions in an effort to prevent militants from escaping the Pakistani offensive.
The operation, launched on Tuesday, has sparked an exodus of civilians from the region.