Presence of a fair sprinkling of European recruits of Taliban and al-Qaeda has come to light with Pakistani forces fighting their way into the terrorist bastion of Waziristan, seizing a number of passports that may be linked to 9/11 suspects and also terror strikes elsewhere.
Soldiers displayed passports to foreign and local journalists taken to the war zone for a first look of the lawless territory, where the US has long suspected that top al-Qaeda leadership is sheltering.
The passports provide strongest evidence yet of direct links between Pakistani militants and al-Qaeda high command, media reports said.
The documents of Said Behaji, a member of the Hamburg cell that set up the 9/11 attacks, show him to be in Pakistan since September 2001. Behaji is said to have fled Germany before the New York bombings.
Another passport shown to the visiting newsmen belonged to a Spanish woman Raqual Burgos, her documents included visas for visits to India and Iran.
Spanish media reports traced her as being married to Amir Azizi, a Moroccan national, alleged to be a key al-Qaeda member and suspected to have a hand in both 9/11 attack and Madrid train bombings in 2004.
Media reports of the visit to the front-line said there were number of other passports dug out by the army during searches of Kotkai, the hometown of Pakistan Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud, which was captured by the army last week.
The chief military spokesman Maj Gen Attar Abbas said that he was not aware that the seized passports matched prominent faces of European recruits of al-Qaeda and Taliban.
In its 13th day-old-campaign, the Pakistani forces are yet to claim capture or finding any traces of prominent al-Qaeda figures or their Arab fighters.
The army said they have recovered Bahaji's passport from a mud compound in the village of Shawangai.
The village, The Times London quoting an army officer, said served as al-Qaeda's command centre. The paper quoting unnamed sources said that foreign militants had started gathering in south Waziristan since 2002.
Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported Bahaji is currently at large and figures on the CIA's list of most wanted terrorists.
Army officers said troops were fast closing on four main towns of Saraogha, Makeen, Ladha and Kaniguram. They described Kaniguram as an important base for Taliban, Uzbek and Turkman fighters.
According to figures provided by the military, over 270 militants and more than 30 soldiers have died so far in fighting in South Waziristan, which started on October 2. PTI