"If someone proves it with any satellite imagery, I am responsible. We have choked all main routes," he said.

 

Mohammad said Pakistani tribesmen had cleared foreign al Qaeda-linked fighters from strongholds near South Waziristan's main town after several weeks of bloody battles.

 

Last year, the Taliban infiltrated large areas of eastern and southern Afghanistan and mounted their most sustained stand against Afghan government troops and their foreign allies since Islamists were ousted in 2001.

 

Winter calm

 

Fighting traditionally calms down over the winter but the Taliban have been vowing a fresh surge in their campaign to rid of the 45,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan when the weather warms up, as it is now doing.

 

Fighting calms during winter but the Taliban
have vowed violence as it the snows melt
Security has deteriorated in Afghanistan, calls have mounted for Pakistan to do more to stop the Taliban using sanctuaries on the Pakistani side of the border, and to crack down on the Islamist networks supporting the fighters.

 

Another Pakistani officer rejected suggestions the Taliban and al Qaeda were operating out of Waziristan, and said Afghanistan and its allies had to do more to improve security on their side of he border.

 

Major-General Waheed Arshad, a military spokesman, said: "There are no al Qaeda training camps, there are no Taliban training camps."

 

"Both sides are equally responsible that no-cross border movement takes place."

 

Pakistani fighters began battling the al Qaeda-linked fighters, most of them Uzbeks, early last month after they allegedly tried to kill a tribal leader.

 

More than 200 people have been killed in the conflict, most of them foreign fighters, the government says.

 

Grand council

 

The Pakistani military says its forces have not been involved, but they have been monitoring the situation closely.

 

Now the local tribesmen are holding a grand council and vowing to oust all foreign militants.

 

Muhammad said: "They are talking of the foreigners because they sick and tired of the people coming from outside."

 

According the Kamal Hyder, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Pakistan, said the Pakistani army has lost hundreds of lives in the region, but now realises the importance of engaging with local elements to help the government to restore the peace

 

Mohammed said: "There is a whole tribe here … who have taken it upon themselves to evict foreign militants from this part of the country."

 

"This conflict will take time to finish. We need to be patient to see the results."