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Musharraf: Al Qaeda is taunting me
Updated: 2004-03-29 11:04

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has accused Osama bin Laden's top deputy of taunting him and vowed to press on with an offensive against al Qaeda, saying, "I want to eliminate all of them."

Musharraf made his comment just days after Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's second-in-command, urged Pakistani tribes to resist government troops and to overthrow Musharraf, according to a CNN report.

"Now that he is taunting me, well, all that I would like to say, I want to eliminate all of them," Musharraf told ABC's This Week.

Musharraf survived two assassination attempts in December last year, both of which he blamed on al Qaeda.

Asked if he was confident he would get Zawahiri and bin Laden before they get him, Musharraf said, "I can't be 100 percent sure. I mean, I'm quite loose at my security, but I believe in destiny. ... I'm very sure that we'll eliminate this al Qaeda from our region."

Earlier, government sources said a Pakistan tribal group released 11 Pakistani paramilitary troops in exchange for government forces pulling out of the Wana region, where fighting between government forces and suspected al Qaeda fighters has raged for weeks.

Two other government officials are expected to be released on Monday.

Ayman al-Zawahiri is believed to be No. 2 in the al Qaeda terrorist network. [AL Jazeera/File]
Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan, a Pakistani army spokesman, said the cordon in the area was lifted only after the military had "largely achieved" its objectives.

"We have successfully busted and dismantled a stronghold and a den of the foreign elements as well as the local miscreants," he said.

"The lifting of this siege does not mean that we are going to end our efforts on war on terror."

He added: "The operations will continue as and when when we have confirmed intelligence about the miscreants."

Sultan said Pakistani forces captured more than 160 suspected terrorists and killed at least 60 more. The suspects were now being interrogated, and authorities were working to determine which of them were foreign fighters.

"They will be appropriately dealt with," he said.

He noted that some terrorist suspects dispersed into small groups during the fighting and may have slipped away during the fighting.

"These people are now on the run, and they will be chased wherever they are," Sultan said.

U.S. officials have long said they believe bin Laden and Zawahiri are hiding in the remote mountain region along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

In an audiotape released last week, Zawahiri urged Pakistanis to overthrow Musharraf.

"Every Muslim in Pakistan must do his or her best in getting rid of this government, which cooperates with the enemies," he said in the tape first aired by the Arab news network Al-Jazeera.

Sources in Pakistan last week said they believed Zawahiri was in the area where the fighting was most intense, although they have since backed away from those claims.

U.S. officials have said they had no information that Zawahiri was present last week.

In the interview with ABC, Musharraf said the government knows areas of south Waziristan where they suspect al Qaeda fighters are hiding.

"We will operate against them," he said. "We will defeat them. I know that the army is wholly with me."

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