SAS Joins the Assault on Al Qaeda Leaders

Daily Mail (London), March 20, 2004 | Go to article overview

SAS Joins the Assault on Al Qaeda Leaders


Byline: SAM GREENHILL

SAS troops are involved in the major assault in Pakistan targeting Osama Bin Laden and his deputy, it emerged last night.

They are guarding the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan, close to where 7,000 Pakistani forces are locked in a ferocious battle with 400 Al Qaeda and Taliban militants.

Two SAS sabre squadrons - about 140 men - are lined up along the border to prevent the fanatics escaping the onslaught by fleeing into Afghanistan.

Thousands of Pakistani reinforcements yesterday poured into the area where Al Qaeda followers are believed to be protecting Bin Laden's deputy, terror godfather Ayman al Zawahri.

They pounded heavily-armed fortresses in several villages in the lawless zone on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

There were unconfirmed reports that Zawahri - who masterminded the September 11 attacks on the U.S. - may have been injured in the fighting.

Zawahri, a 52-year-old former Egyptian eye surgeon, is believed to be the brains behind the Al Qaeda terror network, with Bin Laden serving more as spiritual leader and financial backer.

Villagers in Wana, the main town, said heavy guns fired throughout Thursday night as jets streaked across the sky.

Yesterday, the battle spread to two more villages and helicopter gunships fired rockets at houses.

Families have been fleeing the besieged region in pickup trucks loaded with possessions.

Pakistani army spokesman General Shaukat Sultan told a news conference that 300 to 400 militants were holed up in the area.

'The type of resistance, the type of preparation of their defensive positions, the hardened fortresses they have made means we can assume that there could probably be some high-value target there,' he said. …

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