ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- Al-Qaida fighters hiding in the home of a tribal elder opened fire on Pakistani troops who had come on a tip from U.S. intelligence officials to arrest them, Pakistani authorities said Wednesday. Ten soldiers were killed -- including a major and a captain.
Two al-Qaida fighters were killed and one was captured in the fight, which began late Tuesday and continued for four hours into Wednesday, officials said.
It was the first combat loss for the Pakistani army since President Gen. Pervez Musharraf ordered troops to the border last year to try to intercept al-Qaida and Taliban members fleeing from the U.S. military onslaught.
The al-Qaida members were believed to have been Chechens who fled to the remote area near the Afghan-Pakistan border after the U.S. military's Operation Anaconda across the border in southeastern Afghanistan in March.
Pakistani authorities said an intensive operation was underway Wednesday in the area to apprehend more al-Qaida fugitives.
An Interior Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said troops went late Tuesday to the tribal elder's home near the town of Wana, about 190 miles west of Islamabad in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province after being tipped off by U.S. intelligence that al-Qaida members were hiding there.
After surrounding the house, the Pakistanis demanded the al-Qaida members surrender. Instead, the Chechens opened fire, triggering a gunbattle that persisted into morning, the official said.
He said some soldiers were wounded and evacuated by helicopter to nearby hospitals. Troops found uniforms, a mortar and al-Qaida literature in the house. There was no indication what happened to the tribal elder.
By Wednesday afternoon, 500 Pakistani soldiers had been sent to the area to search for an estimated 40 al-Qaida fugitives still believed to be in the area, said Mohammed Farooq, a resident at Wana contacted by telephone from Islamabad.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.