Monday, June 15, 2009

Pakistan orders attack on Taleban leader Baitullah Mehsud

Pakistan has ordered its army to attack Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taleban, in his mountainous stronghold of South Waziristan – also believed to be the hiding place of Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda chief.
The order to open a new front was announced last night by Owais Ahmed Ghani, governor of North West Frontier Province, and confirmed by the army, which is already fighting the Taleban in several regions across the northwest.
The announcement will be welcomed by the United States, which has been pushing Pakistan to attack South Waziristan, although some officials and experts have raised concerns about over-stretching the Pakistani army.
Mr Ghani blamed Mr Mehsud for a suicide bombing that killed eight people yesterday in the town of Dera Ismail Khan - the latest in a spate of attacks since the army attacked the Taleban in the northwestern region of Swat in late April.

Baitullah Mehsud is the root cause of all evils,” Mr Ghani told reporters.
“The military and law enforcement agencies have been ordered to carry out a full-fledged operation to eliminate these beasts and killers by using all resources."
He did not give a timetable for the attack on South Waziristan - part of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas which border Afghanistan -- although he made it sound as if the operation had already begun.
The army has been pounding areas near South Waziristan with heavy artillery and aerial bombing since last week, but had insisted until yesterday that these were retaliation for individual incidents, rather than part of a new offensive.
A US pilotless drone also hit a target in South Waziristan yesterday, killing at least five people, in the first such attack since mid-May.
Major General Athar Abbas, the army spokesman, confirmed last night that the army had received the orders to attack Mr Mehsud, but said only that they were being “evaluated”, without giving details of the timing.
Military officials declined to comment further this morning.
Under US pressure, the army has launched several offensives on South Waziristan and neighbouring North Waziristan since 2004, but each has ended in a short-lived peace deal with Mr Mehsud and other tribal leaders.
Mr Mehsud is the leader of the Tehrek-e-Taleban Pakistan – also known as the Pakistani Taleban – and is believed to have about 20,000 men under his personal command, mostly from the Mehsud tribe.
He is also blamed for the 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the former Prime Minister and opposition leader, although he has denied any involvement in her death.
Analysts say the army will fierce a much fiercer battle in South Waziristan, which has been controlled by the militants for most of the last eight years, than in Swat, which only came under their control early this year.
Some have long advocated a new offensive against Mr Mehsud, arguing that the entire northwest cannot be stabilized as long as the militants have a safe haven in the region in which to regroup and re-arm.
They say many local tribesmen have turned agains the Taleban, including a rival Mehsud tribal leader called Qari Zainuddin who is said to have mobilised 3,000 followers and offered to help the army defeat the militants.
Others have warned the army against moving into South Waziristan until it has consolidated its gains in Swat and other tribal areas where it is still embroiled in heavy fighting.
They cited reports yesterday that the army had killed at least 20 militants since Friday in the tribal area of Bajaur, where the army said it had defeated the Taleban in February after a six month offensive.
Zakir Hussain Afridi, the top government official for Bajaur, said the fighting over the weekend was in the Charmang valley, a stretch he described as now largely under Taleban control.
There was also fighting between Pakistani forces and the Taleban in the tribal area of Mohmand, which lies next to Bajaur, over the weekend.
Aid workers and analysts have also expressed concern that a new offensive could cause a fresh wave of refugees, adding to the almost 2.5 million who have already fled fighting in Swat and surrounding regions.

Security around Islamabad Red Zone Tightened

The law enforcement agencies have been directed to intensify the security of Federal Capital further especially around Red Zone in view of the recent wave of terror in the country, media reports said on Saturday.
The law enforcement agencies, the report said have been directed to revise security plan in twin cities as terror hit the two cities Lahore and Nowshehra killing more than a dozen people.
SSP Islamabad Tahir Alam Khan has confirmed the news saying the government is taking serious measures to reinforce security arrangements as the mounting ratio of terrorists’ attacks compelled the authorities concerned to improve the security network to meet any unpleasant situation in Federal Capital.
“The entry and exit points are being checked while check-posts have been established in various nooks and corner of Islamabad to avoid happening of any untoward incident”, he said by ading that the vehicles entering Red Zone will be carefully checked while cars having special passes will be allowed to go ahead in this regard.
To a question he said, it was also directed to ensure foolproof security arrangements on key government installations on the occasion of presenting the Federal Budget of 2009-10 fiscal year on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Islamabad Police have arrested more than 20 suspected militants during search operation in the federal capital and recovered four Pistols and two Kalashnikovs from their possession near Red Zone area on Friday. The Secretariat Police Station also confirmed that around 20 suspected militants have been apprehended during search operation against the suspected elements was underway in different areas of Islamabad for some days.