SOUTH ASIA: PAKISTAN News Briefs
taking place)] in the Frontier and, now in some measure during the last week, to the South Waziristan, Orakzai, Bajaur and Mohmand Agencies in the adjoining FATA. While the SFs have stepped up their operations, the TTP has expectedly responded with a welter of attacks across Pakistan’s urban areas and elsewhere.
Dramatic evidence of retaliation by the TTP was most recently visible in a suicide bombing at the five-star Pearl Continental hotel in Peshawar, the NWFP capital, on June 9, 2009 which killed 17 people and injured 60 others. The militants stormed the compound in two vehicles at about 10:30pm, firing at the security guards manning the hotel gate with bullets from one, and blowing up the other in the hotel’s parking area. "It was a suicide attack," Capital City Police Officer Sefwat Ghayur told AFP. Among the wounded was the ruling Awami National Party’s Hajj, Zakat and Ushar Minister, Haji Zarshad Khan, Senator Nabi Bangash, UN officials, foreigners and an airline’s crew. 40 vehicles parked in the compound were destroyed and the hotel building was partially destroyed. Bomb Disposal Squad officials determined that at least 500 kilograms of explosives were used in the attack, which created a 15-foot wide and six-foot deep crater. Approximately 600 kilograms of explosives had been used to blow up the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad on September 20, 2008. Incidentally, both these hotels are owned by business tycoon Sadruddin Hashwani.
Khyber Road, where the explosion occurred, is a target rich area with the NWFP Assembly and several Government and military buildings, including the Peshawar High Court, residences of the Corps Commander, Inspector General of the NWFP Police, the Golf Club, and District Courts, located there. Hotel Pearl Continental, or PC as it is more famously known, is considered "a symbol of the modern and liberal Peshawar" and regularly hosted dignitaries and officials who visited Peshawar despite the chaos. This was certainly factored in by the militants who carried out the attack. Many foreigners, most of them associated with aid agencies, were reportedly staying in the hotel. Two foreign UN officials, Serbian national Aleksandar Vorkapic of the UNHCR and Perseveranda So of the Philippines working for UNICEF, and three local officials of the United Nations Population Fund were among those killed in the suicide bombing. A UN official said four of the injured UN workers included Gordon Brown and Augustine Fredrick of the World Food Programme, Adili Motupotu of the World Health Organisation and UNICEF intern Anna Ciger. Furthermore, citing two US officials in Washington, The Associated Press said that the State Department had been in negotiations with the hotel’s owners to either purchase the facility or sign a long-term lease to house a new American consulate in Peshawar. There was, however, no American casualty. Nevertheless, the fact that militants could travel through such a highly protected zone with a truck laden with 500 kilograms of explosives in times like these is an indication of the alarming state of affairs in Pakistan.
As is the practice of late, a hitherto unknown militant group, the Abdullah Azzam Shaheed Brigade, claimed responsibility for the suicide attack. Its spokesman, Amir Muawiya, a Pakistani TTP commander operating from the arms bazaar of Darra Adamkhel, telephoned reporters in Kohat city of NWFP on June 10, claiming responsibility and threatened more such bombings. His group, led by Commander Tariq Afridi, is affiliated to the Baitullah Mehsud-led TTP. He said the bombing was in retaliation to military operations, at the behest of the US, in Swat and the rest of Malakand, and also in the tribal areas of Darra Adamkhel and Orakzai Agency. Subsequently, the Tehrik-i-TTP Pakistan claimed responsibility for the June 12 suicide attacks in Lahore and Nowshera and the bombing of Hotel Pearl Continental. "We claim responsibility for these attacks," a man identifying himself as Saeed Hafiz and claiming to be deputy of Hakeemullah Mehsud based in Orakzai Agency told Dawn. He said the TTP would soon release the video of the PC attack.
After a month and half of military operations, the Pakistan Army has claimed progress in ‘securing’ the Malakand Division and there is considerable chatter of an offensive in Waziristan. More significantly, the Barack Obama administration, which has constantly been nudging Pakistan ‘to do more’, appears to be content with the present ‘progress’. A pleased US administration has agreed to triple American non-military aid to Pakistan to $1.5 billion per year. Islamabad has evidently been able to execute what Bowyer Bell has, in a different context, described as a ‘tactical terrorist manipulation’. And even as US Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke has pledged an additional $200 million for Pakistan’s displaced citizens, there are enough indications that Pakistan will continue to ‘extend’ such qualified assistance in the ‘war on terror’ and secure substantial approbation and economic rewards for services rendered.
Crucially, the military operations are directed against the TTP, which has turned against Islamabad, and there is nothing to suggest that Pakistan has corrected course and abandoned its past policy of duplicity. It continues to consider groups like the Afghan Taliban, the Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, and other terrorist proxies operating in Afghanistan and India, as its strategic assets.
A deeper scrutiny not only detects the limits of the present pattern of military operations, but also the divergence between the projected and the actual. For instance, attempts at declaring victory by claiming that the tide was turning against TTP are undoubtedly a deception. By the Government’s own admission, there were at least 5,000-6,000 TTP militants in Swat alone (TTP have, of course, claimed a higher cadre strength). Officially, only a disputable 1,400 have been accounted for (as of June 12). According to open source monitoring by the South Asia Terrorism Portal, 2,028 militants have died in the whole of NWFP between April 26, 2009, and June 12, in addition to 310 civilians and 184 soldiers. ‘Securing’ Swat and the rest of Malakand Division obviously remains a distant goal, even though Islamabad’s spin doctors are peddling narratives of a military victory in the Frontier. Little of the TTP leadership has been neutralized. In fact, no TTP key leader has been arrested or killed in the Swat valley so far. Maulana Fazlullah, the Swat unit chief, and other leaders, such as the spokesman and military commander in Mingora, Muslim Khan, Fazlullah’s deputy Shah Doran, Ibn Amin, leader of the ‘Tora Bora Brigade’, Mehmood Khan, Akbar Hussain, Sher Muhammad Kasab, Sirajuddin, Bakht Farzand, Mian Gul Ghafoor, Nisar Ahmed, Laldin a.k.a. Baray Mian, Anwarullah, Bashir Ahmed, and Rashid Ahmed are all at large. While two ‘commanders’ identified as Malanga and Riaz were reportedly killed on May 18 (TTP has neither confirmed nor denied this), the military’s claim of killing commanders Abu Tariq and Rashid Lala is yet to be verified. Abu Tariq (who, some reports indicate, is in fact spokesman Muslim Khan), has since May 21, when his killing was announced, talked to the media on several occasions. On May 21, Lala also contacted the media to prove he was alive. Notwithstanding such controversies, the TTP leadership has all gone underground, with some moving into Afghanistan. While some cadres have melted into the IDP camps, others have just trekked to the mountains or to other parts of Pakistan, retaining their capacity to strike at will. The retaliatory campaign in Lahore, Peshawar, Islamabad, and other parts is a testimony to this. On its part, the Government has claimed that the second and third rung TTP leadership has been eliminated from Swat while the top ones, including Fazlullah, have escaped to South Waziristan.
Central to the TTP retaliation is Peshawar, which is now relentlessly being attacked. Two days after the PC was bombed, there were another two attacks in the provincial capital, including one in the same area. While a man was killed and 13 others, including nine Policemen, sustained injuries in a hand grenade-cum-suicide attack on a Police party in the Lateefabad area on Ring Road, two suspects were killed and six others arrested as troops foiled a audacious terrorist attack at the house of Peshawar Corps Commander, Lt. Gen. Masood Aslam, commander of the operations against the TTP in NWFP, on Khyber Road. Incidentally, the boundary wall of his residence had collapsed due to the suicide bombing at PC. Further, on June 11, Mian Nisar Gul Kakakhel, the Minister for Prisons in NWFP, sustained bullet injuries while two of his security guards died when militants attacked his car in Darra Adam Khel area, some 35 kilometers from Peshawar. One of three attackers was reportedly killed in the exchange of fire.
Since military operations were launched in NWFP on April 26, there have been 29 terrorism-related incidents in Peshawar, including three suicide attacks, with a total of at least 83 persons, including 51 civilians and 21 militants, killed and 236 persons wounded. Earlier, between January 1 and April 25, there were 28 incidents in Peshawar in which 31 persons, including 12 civilians and 11 militants, died and 52 persons were injured. Within the Frontier, they have also targeted places like Lakki Marwat, Kohat, Buner, Hangu, Dera Ismail Khan and Haripur.
The TTP have also attacked other urban areas, including, repeatedly, the national capita, Islamabad and the Punjab provincial capital, Lahore. There have been four terrorist attacks in Punjab since April 26: the May 27th attack when suicide bombers detonated a vehicle loaded with 100 kilograms of explosives near offices of the Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) and the Inter-Services Intelligence in Lahore killing at least 27 persons and injuring 326 others; the suicide attack on June 6 targeting a Rescue 15 office in capital Islamabad, in which two Policemen were killed and four others injured; and the June 12 suicide attack in Lahore in which seven persons were killed.
There is a wave of violence, from both sides, sweeping across Pakistan. On June 12, prominent anti-TTP cleric Maulana Sarfaraz Naeemi was among seven persons killed in a suicide bombing at the Jamia Naeemia seminary in Lahore. Naeemi was among those clerics who had issued an edict on October 14, 2008, declaring suicide attacks against Muslims and civilians as haram (forbidden). In another blast at around the same time, five worshippers were killed and 105 sustained injuries when a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden van into a mosque during the Friday prayers in the Cantonment area of Nowshera in NWFP.
There is a squeeze factor at work here. The military operations have, in fact, led to a dispersal of violence. If the situation worsens in the days to come, the SFs will definitely be over-extended. For instance, while the military offensive in six out of the seven Districts of Malakand Division continues, operations have also been launched in adjacent areas. Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) has indicated that the Janikhel area in Bannu is a staging post for militants operating in Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan, Kohat and Peshawar. Official sources claimed that over 200 militants had been killed in the four-day operation in Bannu. These figures, like the data for the other current conflict theatres, cannot be verified through independent sources. The ‘militant’ category may, moreover, include a large proportion of civilians, as no credible system of identification appears to be in place. And even as ground troops move into Bannu, reports suggest that 500 to 600 militants are coming in from the FATA to bolster the TTP ranks in Bannu, a clear indication that the offensive in Bannu will also be protracted.
The controlled military operations currently underway in South Waziristan, Orakzai Agency and Mohmand Agency are part of a strategy that intends to tie down the militants so that they are unable to reinforce their brethren in the Frontier. It is also aimed at disrupting their retaliatory action in the urban areas. Sources in Islamabad indicate that operations in Bannu are also intended at "softening up" the TTP before the probable offensive in Waziristan. While President Asif Ali Zardari had indicated to The Sunday Times on May 17, that Waziristan would be the next, it is unlikely that any full fledged operation would be launched in the region immediately. Based on the trajectory of the operations in NWFP, full blown operations in FATA will probably get underway only after the whole of Malakand is secure and may perhaps as well be coordinated with comparable US action on the other side of the Durand Line. However, with the ongoing narrative indicating that the Army is in for a long haul in Malakand, operations in FATA may, consequently, be a dangerous case of the Army over-extending itself.
The augmenting refugee problem is largely due to the indiscriminate use of aerial force and long range weapons, including missiles and artillery, which have flattened of villages across large tracts of the Frontier. It is this campaign of bombardment and strafing which has led to the exodus of more than 3.8 million IDPs. There has been minimal ground engagement in these operations in the Frontier, and this is reflected in the low 100-odd fatalities among SFs – with a majority of these deaths inflicted in terrorist attacks, and not in frontal engagement with the militants.
The IDPs will be the most affected due to the continued targeting of cities like Peshawar. In the immediate aftermath of the attack on PC, there will be a flight out of Peshawar by most international relief organisations. In fact, UN agencies and foreign missions in Peshawar have reportedly suspended their activities and evacuated staff members to national capital Islamabad after the PC suicide bombing. NWFP had reportedly been placed in Phase-III of the UN security since the past several months due to the adverse conditions and the expatriate staff had been asked to stay away from Peshawar. In the next security phase, the UN could completely halt its operations in the Frontier. Even otherwise, Pakistan is struggling to cope with the swelling number of IDPs. According to scholar Ahmed Rashid, Islamabad says that no European or Muslim Arab country has sent any major aid. This is also a fair measure of Pakistan’s progressive international isolation.
While military operations targeting the TTP have secured a semblance of public support, a surge in the TTP bombing campaign could undermine this support. The ‘collateral damage’ from indiscriminate bombing, missile attacks and strafing across the Frontier, and the augmenting IDP crisis have already led to immense resentment across the country. In fact, such ‘collateral damage’ will have perilous ramifications in the immediate future, both in terms of public support and the fact that accounts of Islamabad bombing its own will provoke further militant recruitment. While the Army has admitted to a little more than 100 casualties in the campaign so far, there has been no mention about civilian casualties. And any probable military action in FATA, howsoever necessary it may be from the strategic point of view, and the consequent and inevitable displacement and severe retaliation from militants, may undo all of Islamabad’s plans. In fact, around 90 per cent of the local tribesmen have already left South Waziristan and are now living in settled Districts, according to Senator Saleh Shah, who added that the Government had failed to make arrangements for the people who have fled the area. In fact, according to U.N. officials, the mass exodus from the Frontier is reportedly the largest and fastest displacement of people since the genocide in Rwanda 15 years ago.
Absent the complete neutralization of, not only of the TTP leadership and cadres, but of the entire TTP – al Qaeda network, the IDPs will not return to their homes or whatever is left of it. In fact, the possibility of the TTP – al Qaeda regrouping and waging a long-term guerilla campaign has led to President Asif Ali Zardari announcing, during his address to the nation on June 12, that there would be a military cantonment in Swat. He also said Pakistan was battling for its "sovereignty," adding that it would fight "until the end." Much is obviously at stake for Pakistan’s survival.
[South Asia Intelligent Review]
193 militants and 16 soldiers among 222 persons killed in FATA during the week: 22 soldiers were killed and 35 others injured in two separate attacks by militants in North and South Waziristan agencies on June 28. In addition, 22 militants were also killed in the day-long military operations by Security Forces (SFs) in the region. Separately, four militants were killed and several houses were destroyed when the SFs targeted militant positions in different areas of the Nawagai sub-division in Bajaur Agency on the same day.
42 Taliban militants were killed and 50 others injured in the ongoing military operation in South Waziristan and Kurram Agency, a private TV channel reported on June 27. SFs bombarded Taliban hideouts in the Ladha and Wana areas of South Waziristan, killing 15 Taliban militants and injuring 15 others. Also in Wana, the Taliban attacked a Frontier Corps camp, with no reported casualties. The SFs, in retaliation, shelled the Taliban, killing two of them and injuring three others, while a mortar shell hit the house of one Anwar Khan, killing him and injuring his wife and two daughters. Further, aircrafts bombed various areas in South Waziristan, killing 16 Taliban militants and injuring 10 others.
20 militants were killed and 15 others wounded when SFs shelled the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Baitullah Mehsud’s hideouts in South Waziristan on June 26. According to a private TV channel, fighter jets bombarded Taliban hideouts in the agency’s Ladha, Saam and Makeen sub-divisions. Further, four persons, including three SF personnel, were killed and 24 others injured in two remote-controlled bomb attacks on a security convoy in North Waziristan Agency. Local sources said that an army convoy from Bannu in the NWFP was proceeding to Miranshah in the morning when it was targeted with a remote-controlled bomb on the Chashma Pul – around two kilometres from agency headquarters Miranshah.
Eight militants were killed and three of their hideouts destroyed when helicopter gunships targeted parts of Orakzai Agency on June 25. Sources said that gunships targeted Taliban hideouts in Atmankhel and Ferozkhel areas of Lower Orakzai Agency, killing eight militants. In addition, fighter jets targeted the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Baitullah Mehsud’s strongholds in the Zadranga and Shagha areas of South Waziristan Agency’s Ladda sub-division, killing six Taliban militants. Earlier, the Taliban on June 24 had fired six missiles at Khar bazaar in Khar, headquarters of the Bajaur Agency, killing one person and injuring four others.
Approximately 80 people, including a senior commander of the Baitullah Mehsud-led militants, Khwaz Wali Mehsud, were killed and several others sustained injuries in two separate attacks by US spy planes on a suspected militant hideout and funeral prayers at Lattaka village of Ladha sub-division in South Waziristan Agency on June 23. However, militant sources said the death toll in the two drone attacks was around 70-80. A US drone fired three missiles at a suspected militant hideout at Lattaka village in the morning, killing six militants, including Khwaz Ali, who was said to be one of Baitullah Mehsud’s trusted commanders. Five other people killed in the attack were said to be local tribal militants. Tribal sources said it was the first-ever attack by US spy planes on the Shabikhel area of South Waziristan - hometown of Baitullah Mehsud. Later, when the militants and villagers offered funeral prayers of the deceased militants at the village graveyard, two more missiles were fired on the venue. Taliban sources said that a majority of the people after attending funeral prayers had started leaving the venue and few were there to have a final glimpse of Ali when they came under a missile attack. They said two US drones fired two missiles on the gathering killing over 60 people, majority of them militants.
At least 21 people, both militants and civilians among them, were killed and several others injured during air strikes and retaliatory actions by the SFs in Waziristan on June 21 and 22. According to locals, women and children were also among the dead and injured. Air force planes reportedly bombed suspected militant hideouts and training facilities in areas dominated by the Mehsud tribe in South Waziristan. SFs also secured a main supply route between Maulvi Khan Serai and Serwekai. According to officials and locals, the planes shelled houses of Malik Mohammad Amir Khan and Kabir Khan Berki in Salay Rogha area and killed 11 suspected militants and injured five others. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, June 23-29, 2009.
44 militants and 17 soldiers among 64 persons killed in NWFP during the week: In the Upper Dir District, four Taliban militants were killed and five others injured in a clash with a local Lashkar (tribal militia) in the Ghazi Gai area on June 27. Earlier, SFs killed seven Taliban militants in clashes in parts of the Dir and Swat Districts on June 24, while six soldiers, including two officers, were also killed. Elsewhere in the province, three Policemen, including an officer, were killed when some miscreants fired rockets and mortar shells at the Arbab Tapu check-post in the jurisdiction of Matani Police Station of provincial capital Peshawar in the early hours of June 24. Further, one member each from the Baitullah and Abdullah Mehsud groups - rival Taliban factions - were killed in a clash at Tank bazaar in the Tank District on June 24.
Six militants were killed on June 23 in the Shadas village of Maidan area in Lower Dir District when gunship helicopters targeted the house of a local Taliban commander, identified as Miftahud Din alias Shabar. Further, five army men, including a Major and Captain, were killed when a unit of the Baloch Regiment was ambushed at Charbagh in the Malakand Division at 7pm on June 23.
A Taliban commander from South Waziristan opposed to the TTP chief Baitullah Mehsud and part of an apparent plan to isolate the leader of the Pakistan Taliban from his tribesmen ahead of a likely military operation in the area was shot dead in the morning of June 23. Qari Zainuddin, a 26-year-old Mehsud tribesman, who led his own group of militants, was shot dead by an unidentified gunman in his office in Dera Ismail Khan, from where he had recently given interviews to Pakistani and international media denouncing Baitullah Mehsud as an "agent" of America and India. Qari Zainuddin, leader of the Abdullah Group, was shot dead by his guard, Gulbuddin Mehsud, Police official Salahuddin told reporters.
The ISPR Director-General Major General Athar Abbas said at a media briefing in Islamabad on June 22 that the SFs are in the final phase of eliminating terrorist hideouts and camps in Swat. Abbas said: "In the north, Biha Valley — the last stronghold of terrorists — has been fully secured and in the west, Shamozai area is being cleared. Search operations are being carried out in the secured areas to ensure that they are safe for the return of the internally displaced persons (IDPs)." The military spokesman also said various search and cordon operations were conducted by security forces whereby neutralising a number of IEDs and destroying a number of small and big tunnels, while 22 more terrorists were killed in Malakand. Athar Abbas said so far 1,592 terrorists had been killed in the operation while 60 to 70 others had been arrested. In addition, two Policemen were killed and seven people, including three Policemen, sustained injuries when a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden vehicle into the Thakot Police check-post in Battagram District on June 22, completely destroying the check-post. The attack was the first-ever suicide attack in Battagram District. Separately, three persons, including two women, were killed and another sustained injuries when a rocket hit a house in Zardad Killay in the jurisdiction of Hovaid Police Station of Bannu District on June 22. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, June 23-29, 2009.
Two soldiers killed and three injured in first suicide attack in Pakistan occupied Kashmir: A Taliban suicide bomber killed two soldiers on June 26, 2009 when he blew himself up near an army vehicle in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), in the first such attack in PoK. The military said in a statement that three other soldiers were injured in the early morning bombing in Muzaffarabad, the capital of PoK, and rushed to a nearby hospital. Hakimullah Mehsud, a deputy of the Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, told AP that the assault was launched to prove that Baitullah had not been weakened by more than a week of strikes on his suspected hideouts in South Waziristan Agency. "We are in a position to respond to the army’s attacks, and time will prove that these military operations have not weakened us," Hakimullah said over telephone.
A Police officer said the army installation had probably been attacked to give a message to the authorities that militants could expand their area of operation and hit security forces anywhere, including PoK. The barracks fall under the 5-AK Brigade of the Azad Kashmir (AK) Regiment which is reportedly taking part in the operation against militants in Swat and adjoining areas. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, June 27, 2009.
57 Pakistan Air Force personnel arrested in the last two years for links with terrorists: 57 personnel of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) ranging from chief technicians to officers were arrested over their alleged contacts with terrorists and involvement in anti-state activities. The arrests were reportedly made during the last one and a half to two years after conducting an inquiry. Sources said that six officials were sentenced to death. Among them were Khalid Mehmood, Senior Technician Karam Din, Technician Nawazish, Niaz and Nasrullah while 24 were arrested and dismissed from service for opposing the policies of then President Pervez Musharraf. The PAF personnel, allegedly found involved in having contacts with terrorists, were given strict punishment.
According to a private television channel, 26 PAF personnel were court martialled for their ‘involvement’ in terrorism. Those arrested were reportedly working in airbases, including Pakistan Aeronautical Complex Kamra, Minhas Airbase, Sargodha Airbase, Lahore Airbase, Faisal Airbase and Mianwali Airbase. Spokesperson for the PAF, Air Commodore Humayun Waqar, said action was taken against the PAF personnel according to law and arrests were made in President Musharraf’s tenure. He said no new arrests have been made adding that several cases have already been decided. The News, June 25, 2009.
158 militants and nine soldiers killed in NWFP during the week: Security Forces (SFs) on June 21, 2009, claimed to have killed seven Taliban militants in various parts of Swat District, even as thousands of internally displaced families were awaiting the Government’s call for return to their native villages.
The SFs killed six militants and suffered four casualties, besides injuries to eight others, in parts of the Swat Valley on June 20. The ISPR said militants attacked positions of the SFs in Shahdand Banda, Dewlai and Totano Banda. Further, seven suspected militants were killed in a clash with a Lashkar (the village militia) in Patrak area of Upper Dir District late in the night of June 20. In addition, five Taliban militants were killed and two soldiers were wounded in the neighbouring Dir Lower District.
On June 19, 11 Taliban militants were killed in the Doog Darra area of Dir Upper District by armed villagers and artillery shelling by the SFs as the militants started fleeing the area after giving up resistance. The armed villagers have reportedly ringed the Taliban militants, led by Afghan commander Amir Khitab, since June 6, in the mountains of Doog Darra. Separately, SFs said on June 19 that they had killed four Taliban militants and arrested two in the ongoing operation in Malakand.
SFs on June 18 killed 34 Taliban militants in the Swat and Dir Upper Districts, while seven others were arrested, the ISPR said. The troops are reported to have secured the area around Bridge-II, Kabal and Kotlai. During clashes in these areas, the ISPR said 12 militants were killed while five soldiers sustained injuries. Further, six militants were killed in the Totano Banda area of Kabal during an operation launched for the consolidation of SF positions. In the Shamozai area of Swat Valley, the troops commenced an operation for clearing the area and killed 10 Taliban militants. According to the ISPR, 28 militants were killed in the Swat Valley on June 18.
While armed villagers in the Dir Upper District on June 17 killed six holed up Taliban militants in the Doog Darra area, the Army claimed to have killed another 22 militants in the adjacent Dir Lower and Swat Districts during the ongoing Operation Rah-e-Rast.
On June 16, SFs killed 11 militants while targeting Taliban hideouts in the Kulaldherai, Galgut, Hayaserai and Kas Laghrai areas of Dir Lower District. In addition, Shah Sultan, who was an expert in making suicide jackets, was killed in the Charbagh area of Swat District. Separately, two Policemen were killed and three injured late on June 15 when Taliban militants attacked a Police check-post in Mardan.
In the Jani Khel area of Bannu District, Taliban fired rockets at a Police Station and an Airport early on June 15. "Seven Taliban were killed in the retaliatory attack," said Zahinuddin, a local Police official. Further, two guards of the nephew of veteran politician Afzal Khan Lala were killed in Swat Valley. Separately, the ISPR said five Taliban militants were killed in retaliation after they attacked a local Lashkar (militia) in the Dir District. It said another militant was killed when Police fired at a car that refused to stop at a check-post. "The car exploded, as it was primed for a suicide attack," it added. In addition, 14 militants were reportedly killed in the Dir Lower and Upper Districts on June 15. Sources said nine militants were killed in Dir Lower and five in Dir Upper, respectively. They said a soldier was also killed and five others injured in an encounter. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, June 16-22, 2009.
155 militants and nine soldiers among 175 persons killed during the week in FATA: 12 militants were killed and seven others sustained injuries when helicopter gunships and fighter planes targeted their suspected hideouts in different areas of South Waziristan Agency, while 27 militants died in the military operation in Bajaur Agency on June 21.
On June 20, at least 22 militants and six soldiers were reportedly killed in a daylong military action against the Baitullah Mehsud-led Taliban in South Waziristan as the troops cleared a portion of the Wana-Jandola Road. Separately, a soldier was killed and another sustained injuries when militants attacked a Security Forces check-post in the Had Kor area in Ambar sub-division of Mohmand Agency. In the retaliatory actions, Security Forces targeted suspected Taliban hideouts, killing three militants.
At least 15 Taliban militants, including two key ‘commanders’, were killed by the SFs during a counter-insurgency operation at Charmang area of Bajaur Agency on June 20. The SFs also destroyed four hideouts of the Taliban during the operation which was carried out after Taliban militants blew up two boys’ schools and a college in Bajaur on June 19.
Amid reports of NATO’s assistance in a military offensive against the Baitullah Mehsud-led Taliban, Pakistani warplanes and helicopter gunships, on June 19, continued targeting suspected hideouts of the militants in South Waziristan Agency, killing six militants. Sources told The News that two jet fighters of the Pakistan Air Force and two Pakistan Army helicopter gunships bombed suspected hideouts of the TTP chief Baitullah Mehsud in Barwand, Madejan, Serwakai and adjoining areas. Further, the SFs, on June 19, killed 15 militants and injured seven others in a shootout in the Charmang area of Bajaur Agency. Sources said the militants attacked a patrol party of the SFs near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in the Charmang area of Nawagai sub-division, killing two soldiers and injuring three others. In Mohmand Agency, a civilian was killed as SFs shelled the suspected hideouts of the militants in Yarakhel Babazai area.
Suspected US drone strikes on June 18 killed approximately 12 Taliban militants in South Waziristan. The drone targeted the suspected hideout of Taliban commander Malang some 18 kilometres northwest of Wana, said unnamed officials. Malang was a subordinate of Wazir Taliban leader Maulvi Nazir, they added. "Four missiles were fired at the hideout, where Taliban were believed to be training new recruits," local tribal sources told Daily Times. "The attack was staged in two parts: An initial drone strike killed two Taliban. Then, when people converged on the site, three more missiles were fired, resulting in the deaths of 10 more people," they said. Separately, three women were killed and four children injured when mortar shells hit their houses in the Aman Kot and Cheenari areas of Mohmand Agency on June 18. In addition, the Taliban on June 18 killed two locals in Mir Ali subdivision of North Waziristan, 24 kilometres east of Miranshah, for allegedly spying for the US. The body of Sher Nawab, a resident of Peshawar, was found on the Bannu-Miranshah Road near Shahab Flour Mills, while the body of Muhammad Nawaz, a resident of Miranshah, was found near Lakar Mandi in Mir Ali. Notes found near the bodies warned that anyone caught spying for the US would meet the same fate.
An artillery shell fired by the SFs struck a house in the Koz Chinari area of Mohmand Agency killing two women and injuring four children on June 17.
The SFs on June 16 shelled positions of the militants in the Charmang area of Nawagai sub-division with artillery from Khar, headquarters of the Bajaur Agency, Loisam and Tank Khatta camps, destroying several suspected hideouts in the area. An important foreign commander, known as Goraila, and three local militants were killed in the action. SFs cleared the area of the militants and took control of the key locations in Charmang, a militant stronghold. Separately, three persons were killed and four others sustained injuries in sectarian clashes between two groups in the Kurram Agency.
In Mohmand Agency, 29 Taliban militants were killed and 25 injured, when the SFs targeted their hideouts with jet planes and helicopter gunships. In Bajaur, eight militants, including a commander, were killed, a security official in Khar told AFP. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, June 16-22, 2009.
42 operational terror camps in Pakistan and PoK, indicates Indian intelligence: There are 42 terror-training camps directed against India operating in Pakistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), Times of India reported. The latest assessment of the Multi-Agency Centre (MAC), the nodal agency for all terror-related intelligence under the Union Home Ministry in New Delhi, holds that there are 34 ‘active’ and eight ‘holding’ camps operational across the border. Both Pakistan/Northern Areas and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir have 17 ‘active' and four ‘holding or dormant’ camps each, says the MAC assessment, based on inputs from various security agencies. "It is estimated that around 2,200 militants are housed in these camps. After 26/11, many of these camps emptied out or relocated. Some are back to their original status now, while new ones have also come up,'' said an unnamed official. Times of India, June 19, 2009.
113 Taliban militants among 162 persons killed in NWFP during the week: Three Security Force (SF) personnel, including an officer, were killed and seven others sustained injuries, while four Taliban militants were also killed during the ongoing Operation Rah-e-Rast, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said on June 7, 2009. According to the ISPR media update, two soldiers were killed while fighting the militants in Kabal area, between Gul Jabba and Hazara Bridge. Separately, the Taliban killed the nephew of the ruling Awami National Party’s Member of Provincial Assembly, Shamsher Ali Khan, and a Policeman in Swat on June 7.
SFs stated on June 5 they had killed 10 Taliban militants and arrested four people, while 14 SF personnel were killed and 14 others injured in clashes with the Taliban in Malakand Division. In addition, the troops on June 5 also killed 10 militants and secured the Chakesar area of Shangla District. The ISPR said SFs carried out action in the Shangla District, situated to the east of the Swat valley, killing 10 militants in Chakesar. Further, four farmers harvesting wheat in fields were killed when hit by mortar shells in the Puran sub-division of Shangla District.
SFs said on June 4 that they killed 10 militants and arrested six others in various areas of the Swat and Buner Districts, while a soldier was killed and two others injured in various clashes. Troops engaged fleeing militants at a check-post at Shangla and killed six of them and arrested four others, according to the ISPR. Separately, seven SF personnel, including three Police officers and a Special Services Group Captain, were killed when the militants attacked a Buner-bound joint Police and Frontier Corps convoy at Natian, triggering a full-fledged operation in the area that continued late into the night of June 4. The exact number of causalities from the militants’ side could not be ascertained.
SFs on June 3 killed three militants in the Bedara area of Matta Sub-division in Swat and secured Charbagh, where troops were consolidating their position. The ISPR claimed that SFs conducted a search operation in a seminary situated near Allahabad town in Charbagh and recovered a huge cache of explosives and improvised explosive devices. In the Bedara area of Matta, the militants attacked a post that led to an exchange of fire. The ISPR claimed that three militants and a soldier were killed and two soldiers were wounded in the incident.
Battling the Taliban for the control of Charbagh in Swat Valley, SFs faced stiff resistance, killing 21 militants and suffering three casualties during the last 24 hours, the ISPR said on June 2. In addition, 18 militants were arrested during Operation Rah-e-Rast in Charbagh and other areas.
SFs on June 1 claimed to have killed 37 militants in the Swat Valley and the Buner District during the ongoing military operation against the Taliban. In addition, troops launched an operation in the Charbagh area of the valley to clear it of the militants, while curfew was lifted from Kalam town after talks between SFs and local elders. The Frontier Corps sources said SFs engaged the militants in their hideouts in Pacha Killay, Tongo Pull, Jawar and Gul Killay. 19 militants were killed during an exchange of fire between the SFs and Taliban. The ISPR said 18 militants were killed and 12 others were arrested in Swat. Meanwhile, troops launched an operation in Charbagh to purge it of militants. Heavy clashes reportedly broke out for the control of the Jangle Jerki village. SFs faced stiff resistance from the militants during their operation to link Kabal to Sarsenai. The ISPR said an exchange of fire took place in Fatehpur, in which one militant was killed. In Qalagai, a Taliban hideout was attacked and three militants were killed, while seven others were arrested. SFs neutralised a Taliban training centre in the Dambar Kandao area of Peuchar. The ISPR claimed that nine militants were killed and six others sustained injuries in the operation. The militants on May 31 reportedly beheaded three persons in Pacha Killay in Buner District for spying for the SFs. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, June 2-8, 2009.
49 persons killed in suicide attack on mosque in Dir Upper District: A suicide bomber killed 49 worshippers, including 12 children, at a mosque in a remote village of the Dir Upper District of NWFP on June 5, 2009. Dozens more were injured as a young man detonated explosives fastened to his body minutes before the Friday congregation in the Hayagay Sharqi village. No group has so far claimed responsibility for the suicide attack. The village, located in the mountains, is situated approximately 20 kilometres east of Dir town, the District headquarters. Reports indicated that the Hayagay Sharqi village has been strongly opposed to the presence of the Taliban militants in the Doog Darra area of Dir Upper. The residents had also established checkpoints to keep a vigil on the movement of the militants, who would use the village as a corridor to Dir town. The News, June 6, 2009.
Lahore High Court orders release of Lashkar-e-Toiba chief Hafiz Mohammed Saeed: A full bench of the Lahore High Court on June 2, 2009, accepted a habeas corpus petition and ordered the Government to release Jama’at-ud-Da’awa [JuD, the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) front] chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed and Colonel (Retd.) Nazir Ahmad. The Court observed, "After hearing the learned counsel for the parties and perusal of the case law on the subject as well as the material produced by the learned law officers in chamber, for the reasons to be delivered later on, with a unanimous view, we have held that this writ petition in the form of habeas corpus is maintainable as prima facie the Government has no sufficient grounds to detain the petitioners for preventive measures… As far as the UN resolution is concerned, there is no matter before us about the vires and the Government can act upon the same in letter and spirit if so advised. But relying on the same, the detention cannot be maintained, as it was even not desired thereby."
During the proceedings, petitioners’ counsel A.K. Dogar had claimed the Government’s plea to detain his clients in the public interest was wrong. Members of the JuD are good Muslims who follow the example of the holy Prophet, he said, claiming the detention was part of a Western conspiracy to defame Islam. He said the Government had made United Nations Security Council Resolution No. 1267 its basis for detaining the petitioners, even though the resolution dealt with an arms embargo, freezing the guilty party’s assets, and banning them from travelling abroad, not detention. Defending the Government, Deputy Attorney General Naveed Inayat Malik said Dogar’s arguments collapsed under Article 10(3) of the Constitution, which contended it was not necessary to show grounds for detention in the case of preventative detention.
In December 2008, the Interior Ministry had ordered the detention of six JuD leaders, including its chief Hafiz Saeed, on the suspicion of his group’s involvement in the Mumbai terrorist attacks of November 26, 2008. A review board of the Lahore High Court on May 5 extended for further 60 days the detention of Hafiz Saeed and Colonel Nazir Ahmed, while releasing its two leaders Mufti Abdur Rehman and Amir Hamza. Daily Times; The News, June 3, 2009.
[South Asia Intelligent Review]