49 Pakistani troops dead or missing so far in Al-Qaeda offensive
ISLAMABAD (AFP) Mar 23, 2004
At least 49 Pakistani troops are dead or missing since their bloodiest battle with Al-Qaeda-linked militants and their tribal supporters was unleashed a week ago near the Afghan border, according to security officials.

Sixteen troops were killed, 22 injured and 12 went missing when a paramilitary unit was surprised on March 16, the first day of the ongoing battle, by a fierce onslaught from scores of well-armed fighters, military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan has said.

Another four soldiers disappeared during the full-scale offensive launched on March 18 against Kalushah and Shin Warzak villages, near the South Waziristan district capital of Wana, a senior security official said Tuesday.

Another 17 soldiers were killed in three separate attacks elsewhere in the wild northwestern tribal zone in an apparent spread of resistance to the army's stepped-up hunt for Al-Qaeda members, the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

In one attack a major and a soldier were killed in North Waziristan before dawn Thursday when attackers fired heavy weaponry and rockets on an army camp, the official said.

Another 12 troops were killed when their convoy was ambushed on Monday some 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the scene of the assault, the official said.

Three more died when their base in the town of Parachinar, 150 kilometers northeast of Wana, was attacked with rockets at dawn Tuesday, he said.

The military refuses to reveal how many troops have been killed since the full-scale offensive was launched.

Western diplomats told AFP they believe the military toll was between 60 and 100.

At least 15 civilians and 31 Al-Qaeda-linked militants have died in the week-long operation.