Pakistani forces raid militant training camp

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MIRANSHAH, Pakistan, May 22 (Reuters) Pakistani security forces clashed today with al Qaeda-linked militants running a training camp near the Afghan border, the Pakistani military said.

There was no information about casualties in the shootout in the North Waziristan region, which follows persistent doubts in the United States about Pakistan's commitment to the US-led war on terrorism.

Militants at the camp refused to surrender and opened fire on Pakistani troops, the military said.

''Security forces returned the fire and are in the process of clearing the miscreants' training facility,'' the military said in a statement.

Pakistan's tribal areas on the Afghan border are hotbeds of support for Islamist militants. Many foreign al Qaeda members took refuge there after US-led forces ousted the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001.

Beginning in 2003, Pakistani security forces launched offensives in North and South Waziristan as part of efforts in the US-led campaign against militants.

But the government later struck pacts aimed at reinvigorating traditional powers of leaders of the ethnic Pashtun tribes, which inhabit both sides of the border, and isolating the militants.

Critics say the deals have given militants free rein and let them expand their influence.

A senior US official said yesterday Pakistan had been increasingly active in repelling Taliban and al Qaeda forces on the Afghan border despite growing unease about Pakistan's commitment to the war on terrorism.

In February, US Vice President Dick Cheney visited Afghanistan and Pakistan and urged Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to take tougher action against militants on his side of the lawless border where US commanders say radical fighters are training.


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