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Pakistan: All 17 militants killed in gunbattle from Kazakhstan
Updated: 2005-07-18 16:42

The Pakistani military said that 17 militants gunned down near the Afghan border were all from Kazakhstan and included women and teenage youths.

"We now believe the entire group was from Kazakhstan," military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan told AFP on Monday.

He said the authorities recovered four passports and some documents and identity cards which indicated they were Kazakhs.

Troops hunting militants with suspected links to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban killed the 17 in a clash in the rugged border tribal area on Sunday.

The clash broke out two days after US forces in Afghanistan killed 24 suspected Al-Qaeda militants and their Taliban allies on the Pakistani side of the border.

Pakistani troops acting on a tip-off cordoned off a hideout in an isolated complex outside Miranshah, the main town in the semi-autonomous North Waziristan tribal region.

The 17, including women and teenagers, were killed as they tried to break the siege and flee the compound in two vehicles after a shoot-out, Sultan said. One vehicle was knocked out and the other was crippled.

The general said the group included women and youths aged under 20, who also took part in the fighting.

"These guys were all trained fighters," the general said adding that women and young people received training in explosives.

He said local officials and elders had tried for more than two hours to persuade the group to surrender but a gunbattle erupted when they tried to escape in their vehicles.

The women hurled grenades when security forces stopped them, Sultan said.

Troops recovered arms and ammunition, including detonators, explosives and bomb-making instructions. Sixteen locals who had helped the group were arrested.

Pakistan, a key ally in the US "war on terror", has deployed about 70,000 troops along its border with southeastern Afghanistan to track down foreign militants in the tribal area.

Taliban attacks in the southeast have surged in recent months ahead of Afghanistan's landmark parliamentary elections in September.

Al-Qaeda and Taliban members fled to the deeply religious region after the Taliban regime was toppled in late 2001 by US-led attacks.

In a series of operations since last year, Pakistani forces have destroyed hideouts and training camps of militants linked to Al-Qaeda and killed hundreds of rebels, officials say. About 250 soldiers have also died.

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