WANA, Pakistan (AFP) – Hundreds of Islamist militants overran a Pakistani paramilitary fort near the Afghan border Wednesday, sparking fierce fighting that left seven troops and up to 50 rebels dead, the army said.
Another 20 troops were missing after insurgents armed with rocket launchers and assault rifles blasted their way into the remote outpost at Sararogha town in the rugged South Waziristan tribal district.
The area is said to be a stronghold of Baitullah Mehsud, a tribal warlord with alleged links to Al-Qaeda who is accused by the government of masterminding the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.
“Around midnight 400 miscreants attacked the Frontier Corps at Sararogha. The fort was captured by militants, we are taking stock of the situation,” chief military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told AFP.
Â * Who’s who in Pakistan?
“There are reports of 40 to 50 dead miscreants, while seven personnel embraced martyrdom.”
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s foreign ministry warned Wednesday that any unauthorised military strike by international forces against Al-Qaida militants on Pakistani soil would be considered an “enemy act.”
The warning came days after President Pervez Musharraf said in a newspaper interview that an incursion by the US-led coalition in Afghanistan without permission would be treated as an invasion.
Growing Islamist militancy in Pakistan’s tribal areas has raised concerns in the United States, with reports that Washington is considering giving the Pentagon and the CIA new authority to conduct covert operations.
“Without Pakistan’s permission, without Pakistan’s involvement, any action by a foreign government on Pakistan’s territory will be an enemy act,” foreign ministry Mohammad Sadiq told weekly briefing.
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Sadiq said Pakistan welcomed any international help in the fight against terrorism, but would not allow foreign troops to take direct action on its territory, he said.
“We have cooperation with the international community in (the) war on terror and in… intelligence sharing, training, technical cooperation and provision of equipment and armament,” he said.
“So that is the area of cooperation, where we allow the international community to help us and support us because that facilitates our war on terror.”
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Taliban and Al-Qaida-linked militancy has intensified in the tribal areas since Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf ordered troops to crush an uprising at a radical mosque in Islamabad in July.
Hundreds of Islamist militants attacked and captured a Pakistani paramilitary fort near the Afghan border on Wednesday, leaving seven troops and up to 50 rebels dead, the army said.