Troops launch major assault
* Musharraf says ‘high value target’ surrounded
* Zawahri believed to be holed up
* Pakistani sources say airstrike on Qaeda planned
* Army major, 3 soldiers killed in North Waziristan
* Reward for Osama’s capture doubled
ISLAMABAD: Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf told CNN on Thursday that he believed troops had surrounded Al Qaeda fighters protecting a “high-value target”, AFP reported.
“We feel that there may be a high-value target,” President Musharraf told CNN. “I can’t say who.” Asked whether there was heavy fighting, President Musharraf said, “Yes, the resistance that is being put up by the people there has made us feel that there may be a high-value target. I can’t say who.”
A reporter saw at least 15 helicopters flying in the vicinity and heard several explosions.
Brig (r) Mahmood Shah, head of security for the tribal region, said the “full-fledged operation” was a resumption of the assault launched on Tuesday, when the forces were under-prepared for the heavy resistance they encountered.
The Pakistani government plans an airstrike on Friday at a group they believe to be cornered Al Qaeda fighters, including No 2 Ayman al Zawahri, CNN also said citing Pakistani government sources.
“Sometime after dawn it sounds like they will go in with attack helicopters and they may go in with fixed wing (jets). The plan is to go in by air tomorrow, or at least first light,” CNN correspondent Aaron Brown said from Pakistan. Brown said his sources, which included Pakistani intelligence sources, believed al Zawahri was among 200 well-equipped Al Qaeda fighters cornered near the Afghan border.
Iqbal Khattak adds: Four Pakistan Army personnel including an officer were killed in North Waziristan Agency in two incidents, as a major offensive began in South Waziristan Agency on Thursday with air support to flush out Al Qaeda elements and their harbourers.
Unidentified gunmen attacked an army camp in Shawal in North Waziristan Agency early on Thursday morning, killing an army major and a soldier, officials in Miranshah, agency headquarters of North Waziristan, told Daily Times on the phone. Three soldiers were also injured in the attack on the army camp in Shawal. Military spokesman Maj Gen Shaukat Sultan confirmed the officer’s death but declined to confirm his rank.
Two army soldiers were killed and two injured on Thursday when a military truck hit a landmine on the main highway between Miranshah and Mir Ali, also in North Waziristan Agency, officials added. The injured troops were admitted to a hospital in Miranshah. A tribal elder from Wana told Daily Times that warplanes and gunship helicopters were providing air cover to hundreds of military personnel, but the military spokesman denied use of warplanes in the latest operation.
Brig (r) Shah said, “Paramilitary troops backed by the army and attack helicopters are taking part in the operation. We are using heavy weapons because they are also using heavy weapons against our forces,” he said. However, he said the use of warplanes could not be ruled out if the situation warranted.Thirteen-year-old Deen Muhammad was reported killed and 10 people injured when a mortar landed in his home in Azam Warsak.
AP adds: The House of Representatives voted unanimously on Thursday to double the reward for Osama Bin Laden’s capture to $50 million.