The Taliban and al-Qaida suspects were arrested on Tuesday after hundreds of Pakistani troops backed by helicopter gunships swooped down on a town in the semi-autonomous South Waziristan tribal region.

 

The Urdu-language Jang daily, quoting diplomatic sources, said al-Zawahri's son Khalid, was handed over to US custody soon after his arrest and flown out of Pakistan.

 

"The identities and nationalities of the suspects would be known when interrogation is over," a security official said.

  

The arrest, if confirmed, would be a major boost to US-led efforts to track down bin Ladin, the alleged architect of the September 11 attacks.

 

No information

 

Ayman al-Zawahiri, number two in al-Qaida network, threatened new attacks against the US in a recording attributed to him by Al-Jazeera television channel on Tuesday.

  

US military spokesman in Kabul said they did not have any information on arrests from the operation carried out by Pakistani authorities in the tribal region.

  

"We don't have any reports coming out of Pakistan in reference to who they picked up, at least I haven't seen anything yet," Lieutenant Colonel Matt Beevers said.

  

"The identities and nationalities of the suspects would be known when interrogation is over"

Unidentified Pakistani
security official

"Clearly coalition forces support the Pakistani army's efforts in the federally-administered tribal areas. They continue to do an outstanding job,"  he said.

  

Intelligence officials revealed that foreign women were among the detainees, but declined to release any more details.

  

"Among the men how many are foreigners I cannot comment," military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan said.    

 

Pakistan had dismissed speculation that Tuesday's border operation targeted bin Ladin, after reports that his location had been pinpointed on a different stretch of the Afghanistan border.
  

South Waziristan has long been considered a sanctuary for Taliban and Al-Qaida members who fled Afghanistan in late 2001 when US-led forces invaded and ousted the Taliban government in Afghanistan.

  

Tens of thousands of Pakistani troops have been deployed along the 1600km border for the last two years and Islamabad says it has arrested more than 500 al-Qaida and Taliban suspects.