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Pakistani army conducts operation to find militants on border with Afghanistan


ISLAMABAD, July 17 (RIA Novosti, Yevgeny Pakhomov) - The Pakistani army started in the night of Saturday-Sunday a large-scale operation to look for foreign Islamic extremists and militants supporting them from among local Pashtoons in the North-West Frontier on the border with Afghanistan, Pakistani news agencies quoted military sources as saying.

The agencies said the operation is being conducted near Miramshakh - administrative capital of the Northern Waziristan region in Northwestern Pakistan, where the local Pashtoon tribe union of Wazirs lives.

A total of 17 to 19 militants were killed in an operation that started at about midnight when several terrorists in a vehicle tried to shell a local military unit from hand grenade launchers.

Tensions in Northern Waziristan started to increase after the U.S.-led counter terrorist coalition in Afghanistan killed 24 militants, presumably Taliban, on Thursday. Local Moslems said American soldiers invaded Pakistan.

Islamabad said it will conduct investigation. Pakistani sources said on the same day that commander of the Pakistani army in Northern Waziristan, Major-General Akram Sakhi warned local tribe leaders that if they did not stop giving assistance to militants and did not reveal their hideouts, they would face "inevitable punishment."

Some sources said Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, could have hidden in the North-West Frontier province.

Since the start of the counter terrorist operation in Afghanistan, Pakistan has deployed a 70,000-strong military contingent on the territory, but the situation in the region remains tense.

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