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Pakistanis Might Be Near al-Qaida No. 2

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By PAUL HAVEN, Associated Press Writer

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistani troops believe they have surrounded al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri in an operation near the Afghan border, three senior Pakistani officials told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The officials, who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity, said intelligence indicated the Egyptian-born al-Zawahri has been cornered in an operation that began Tuesday in South Waziristan involving hundreds of troops and paramilitary rangers.

In an interview with CNN, Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said he had spoken with the commander of Pakistani troops in the region. He said the commander reported "fierce resistance" from a group of fighters entrenched in fort-like buildings and that there were indications that a senior figure was surrounded.

"He's reasonably sure there's a high-value target there," Musharraf said.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a U.S. counterterrorism official said: "It would appear that the Pakistanis have surrounded a very senior al-Qaida figure, but at this point we are not certain who it is."

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