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    TWENTY-FOUR MILITANTS ELIMINATED IN PAKISTAN

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    ISLAMABAD, March 17, 2004. (RIA Novosti) -- Twenty-four militants were killed during the anti-terrorist operation in the South Waziristan autonomous region (where the Pushto tribal group of Wazirs resides) in the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan, the state radio of Pakistan has announced.

    The military spokesman Major-General Shaukat Sultan told The Doon newspaper about "twenty-four eliminated foreign terrorists." During the fighting at the Kalashah village situated about 10 km west of the Wana city, the capital of South Waziristan, eight Pakistani servicemen were killed, the paper reports.

    Analysts stress that in the number of killed and wounded in the operation, which was carried out the day before, could be called the biggest since Pakistan's joining the international anti-terrorist coalition in September 2001. Participating in it were 700 frontier guards and members of paramilitary formations who were confronted by up to 500 militants.

    During the fighting the sides used heavy-barreled machine-guns, grenade launchers, and rockets, with the "militants displaying the skill of trained and experienced soldiers," says the paper quoting the eyewitnesses.

    The observers are unanimous in the opinion that Islamabad timed this operation to the arrival to Pakistan on Wednesday of US State Secretary Colin Powell, who intends to discuss with the Pakistani leadership the plans of further joint struggle against terrorism.

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