IMAGE: Pakistani troops
Ahsanullah Wazir  /  AP
Soldiers of Frontier Constabulary take positions on the outskirts of Wana, tribal capital of South Waziristan along Afghanistan border on Thursday.
updated 9/10/2004 8:11:33 AM ET 2004-09-10T12:11:33

Skirmishes went on overnight between troops and militants in a tense tribal region near the Afghan border where Pakistani jets flattened an alleged al-Qaida training facility, killing at least 50 fighters, residents and the military said Friday.

Those killed reportedly included Uzbeks, Arabs and Chechens.

Acting on a tip, army warplanes on Thursday bombed an alleged al-Qaida facility located at Dila Khula, a South Waziristan village about 15 miles northeast of the region's main town, Wana.

The army's action sparked skirmishes in the area, with gunmen firing on some vehicles carrying troops. There was no word on army casualties.

Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan said Friday that troops "did exchange fire with some miscreants" after Thursday's operation, but the "situation is now under control."

However, he clarified that ground forces had not moved into the area where the training facility was blown up, adding "local people might have buried those foreigners and their supporters, who were killed in the assault."

"We don't have any bodies of the miscreants with us," he told The Associated Press.

Most of dead foreigners
Earlier, Sultan and some other military sources said 90 percent of the 50 dead terror suspects were foreigners, and that troops had retrieved some of the bodies.

Pakistan has frequently overstated the scope of its military operations, claiming to have captured or killed foreigners that turn out to be local tribesmen, or to have zeroed in on top al-Qaida men who never materialize.

Villagers have also complained of heavy civilian casualties.

A large number of Central Asians and some Arab militants are believed to be living in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. Many came to fight alongside U.S.-backed Afghan mujahideen against the Soviet Union in the 1980s, and some never left.

The area's tribes are fiercely autonomous and deeply resentful of the army's presence, making it an ideal hide-out.

Meanwhile, local authorities in Wana on Friday demolished dozens of shops owned by Ba Khan, a tribal elder from whose controlled areas troops were repeatedly attacked in recent weeks.

Khan was last seen in the area in August and officials suspect he is hiding somewhere in the region along with foreign militants. Authorities say they demolished Khan's shops under a tribal law for failing to stop the attacks against the army.

The army has frequently launched attacks in North and South Waziristan to flush out Islamic militants. Hundreds of people, including civilians, have died in the attacks.

Pakistan, a key ally of the United States in its war on terror, has deployed about 70,000 troops in tribal regions bordering Afghanistan to hunt remnants of al-Qaida and Taliban.

The government has said the operations would continue until terror suspects are captured or eliminated. They were earlier offered amnesty, but none accepted it.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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