CNN    9/9/07

'Raid on al Qaeda meet kills 40'

Uzbeks, Chechens and Arabs
said to be at 'training facility'


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- The Pakistani air force has bombed a suspected meeting of al Qaeda operatives in the country's tribal region along the border with Afghanistan, government officials said.

According to local officials, the 6 a.m. attack in the South Waziristan city of Khonkhila Thursday killed 40 people, including Pakistanis and "foreigners."

"There were confirmed reports of training activity being conducted by foreign elements including Uzbeks, Chechens and a few Arabs," the military said in a statement quoted by The Associated Press.

"These trained terrorists were indulging in sabotage and terrorist acts in the country."

Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan told AP said the men had been involved in terrorist acts inside Pakistan, but gave no details.

He said they were not in any way connected to suspected Chechen and Arab militants who took hundreds hostage at a school in southern Russia earlier this month. At least 330 people -- many of them children -- died in the end to that siege.

Thursday's strike was the latest in Pakistan's effort to find and destroy suspected al Qaeda strongholds.

For months, Pakistan soldiers have been scouring the rugged northwest border region for renegade Taliban and al Qaeda members, who are suspected to be hiding there.

U.S. officials have long said they believe al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his top deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri are hiding in the remote mountain region along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has admitted the region is a hotbed of terrorism, and has said he will not back down from the fight to root them out.

Waziristan is a rugged, mountainous region about 400 km (250 miles) southwest of Islamabad.

-- CNN Producer Syed Mohsin Naqvi contributed to this report