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Suspected al-Qaida Helper Gives Up

August 3, 2002

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WANA, Pakistan (AP) _ A tribal elder who hid for weeks to avoid arrest after al-Qaida fighters using his house killed 10 Pakistani soldiers in a shoot-out has surrendered to local authorities, officials said Saturday.

Abdul Khaliq Sarkakhel’s house in the western town of Wana was used by al-Qaida men until June 25, when troops conducted a raid, said Anwar Ali Shah, an official in the town’s political department.

The soldiers were killed and several others wounded in the ensuing gunbattle. Two suspected al-Qaida fighters were also killed.

Pakistani authorities subsequently demolished Sarkakhel’s two houses as a warning to residents not to support al-Qaida holdouts, Shah said.

Soldiers zeroed in on one of the two houses after a weekslong search operation in Wana and surrounding tribal areas. Wana is near the Afghan border, in a tribal region of Pakistan where many al-Qaida and Taliban are believed to have fled the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. The town is 200 miles west of Islamabad.

Shah said security agencies believe that as many as 45 al-Qaida fighters were hiding in Sarkakhel’s house at the time of the raid, but most managed to escape.

Witnesses said dozens of members of Sarkakhel’s tribe were present when the man surrendered himself in hopes of persuading authorities to show leniency.

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