The military on Thursday took foreign and local journalists for a first look inside the largely lawless territory since it launched a ground offensive here in mid-October. The U.S.-backed operation is focused on a section of the tribal region where the Pakistani Taliban are based and are believed to shelter Al Qaeda.
Soldiers displayed passports seized in the operation, among them a German document belonging to a man named Said Bahaji.
That matches the name of a man thought to have been a member of the Hamburg cell that conceived the 9/11 attacks. Bahaji is believed to have fled Germany shortly before the attacks in New York and Washington.
The passport included a tourist visa for Pakistan and a stamp indicating he'd arrived in the southern city of Karachi on Sept. 4, 2001.
Another passport, from Spain, bears the name of Raquel Burgos Garcia. Spanish media have reported that a woman with the same name is married to Amer Azizi, an alleged Al Qaeda member from Morocco suspected in both the 9/11 attacks and the Madrid train bombings in 2004.
Her family in Madrid has had no news of her since 2001, according to Spanish media. Her passport included visas to India and Iran, and the army displayed a Moroccan document with Burgos Garcia's photo and other information.
It was impossible to determine whether the passports are genuine, and German and Spanish officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, the army's chief spokesman, said he had not realized the passports matched any prominent names, and declined further comment other than to say European militants were sprinkled throughout the area.
The U.S. has maintained for years that South Waziristan and other parts of the rugged frontier have sheltered Osama bin Laden and his senior lieutenants.