North-Waziristan Operation ‘in the offing’ as 13 Troops Martyred

Miran Shah: Taliban militants killed 14 soldiers in Miranshah, beheaded all but one of them and hung two of the heads from wooden poles in the centre of town, officials said Monday.The killings in Miranshah, the main town in the North Waziristan tribal area, highlight the situation facing the military in dealing with the militancy.

The US has repeatedly demanded that Pakistan launch an offensive in North Waziristan, especially against the so-called Haqqani network. Pakistan has promised to do so in the future. “Something has to be done, and it’s in the offing,” Lt-Gen Khalid Rabbani, the Pakistan army’s top commander in the region told an American news agency in an interview Monday, reported Washington Post. “North Waziristan is the only place left” that hasn’t been the target of an operation, he said.

On Sunday, the Taliban ambushed a security checkpoint in Miranshah, killing nine soldiers, the army said. Militants had been firing on the checkpoint for the past few days before they ambushed it, the army added.When authorities finally retrieved the bodies of the dead soldiers, they found that they had been beheaded, said intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to the media.

The Army retaliated Sunday with helicopter gunships that pounded suspected militant hideouts and also hit three houses and a mosque in the town, said intelligence officials. Three civilians were killed and 20 were wounded in the helicopter attacks, they said. It’s unclear how many militants were killed.The military also raided a house in Miranshah on Sunday night, killing a militant commander and several of his colleagues, said intelligence officials. But the remaining militants escaped with five soldiers captured during the raid.They beheaded four of them and hung two of their heads from poles in Miranshah on Monday. The bodies of the others were dumped in Miranshah bazaar, the officials said.“This will not shy us off establishing the writ of the government in all the areas, including North Waziristan,” said Lt-Gen Rabbani, who commands 150,000 troops in the northwest along the Afghan border.

The army unleashed its helicopter gunships again Monday, attacking a weapons market in Miranshah where the militants who attacked the security checkpoint were believed to be hiding, said intelligence officials. The attack killed some 30 militants and destroyed dozens of shops that sold assault rifles, ammunition and rocket propelled grenades, the officials said.Since the fighting started Sunday, 20 troops have been injured, said the officials.

The attack on the weapons market occurred after the army had declared a curfew, so there did not appear to be any civilian casualties within the bazaar, said Haji Zafran, one of the shop owners. But a dozen people were wounded when a mosque near the market was hit, he said. The market burned for hours after the attack, and the area reverberated with loud bangs as the flames set off the ammunition and grenades in the shops, said Zafran.

The owner of the market, Haji Noor Deen, protested the army’s attack and claimed he and the other arms dealers suffered a loss of millions of dollars.“Our place was targeted for no reason, as nobody fired a shot from there at the army,” said Deen. “The dealers just sell arms to tribesmen.”The army lifted the curfew so that tribal elders and militants could hold a meeting to try to resolve the conflict, said intelligence officials.

The Jirga included members of the Haqqani network, an Afghan group, and also Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a powerful militant commander believed to be close to Pakistan, they said.The fighting in Miranshah follows the murder last week of a senior cleric, Maulana Naseeb Khan, who taught at a madrassa near Peshawar where several Taliban leaders studied. The cleric, who came from North Waziristan, was kidnapped near Peshawar and found dead on Thursday. After his funeral, the Taliban distributed a pamphlet blaming the army and vowing to avenge his killing.

14 Pakistani Troops Martyred in Miran Shah

Taliban fighters martyred 14 Pakistani soldiers in a key militant sanctuary along the Afghan border, beheaded all but one of them and hung two of the heads from wooden poles in the center of town, officials said Monday.

The killings in Miran Shah, the main town in the North Waziristan tribal area, highlight the dilemma facing the military in dealing with an area used by both the country’s fiercest enemy, the Pakistani Taliban, and Afghan and Pakistani militants believed to be close to the government who are battling U.S.-led forces in neighboring Afghanistan.

The U.S. has repeatedly demanded that Pakistan launch an offensive in North Waziristan, especially against the so-called Haqqani network. Pakistan has promised to do so in the future, but claims its forces are stretched too thin right now fighting the Pakistani Taliban in other parts of the tribal region.

“Something has to be done, and it’s in the offing,” Lt. Gen. Khalid Rabbani, the army’s top commander in the northwest, told The Associated Press in an interview Monday. “North Waziristan is the only place left” that hasn’t been the target of an operation, he said.

Many analysts believe Pakistan is reluctant to target militants in North Waziristan with whom it has strong historical ties and could be useful allies in Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw. But those militants are also allies with the Pakistani Taliban, complicating matters even further.

On Sunday, the Taliban ambushed a security checkpoint in Miran Shah, killing nine Pakistani soldiers, the army said. Militants had been firing on the checkpoint for the past few days before they ambushed it, the army added.

When authorities finally retrieved the bodies of the dead soldiers, they found that they had been beheaded, said intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

The army retaliated Sunday with helicopter gunships that pounded suspected militant hideouts and also hit three houses and a mosque in the town, said intelligence officials. Three civilians were killed and 20 were wounded in the helicopter attacks, they said. It’s unclear how many militants were killed.

The military also raided a house in Miran Shah on Sunday night, killing a militant commander and several of his colleagues, said intelligence officials. But the remaining militants escaped with five soldiers captured during the raid.

They beheaded four of them and hung two of their heads from poles in Miran Shah on Monday. The bodies of the others were dumped in Miran Shah bazaar, the officials said.

“This will not shy us off establishing the writ of the government in all the areas, including North Waziristan,” said Rabbani, who commands 150,000 troops in the northwest along the Afghan border.

The army unleashed its helicopter gunships again Monday, attacking a weapons market in Miran Shah where the militants who attacked the security checkpoint were believed to be hiding, said intelligence officials. The attack killed some 30 militants and destroyed dozens of shops that sold assault rifles, ammunition and rocket propelled grenades, the officials said.

Since the fighting started Sunday, 20 Pakistani troops have been injured, said the officials.

The attack on the weapons market occurred after the army had declared a curfew, so there did not appear to be any civilian casualties within the bazaar, said Haji Zafran, one of the shop owners. But a dozen people were wounded when a mosque near the market was hit, he said.

The market burned for hours after the attack, and the area reverberated with loud bangs as the flames set off the ammunition and grenades in the shops, said Zafran.

The owner of the market, Haji Noor Deen, protested the army’s attack and claimed he and the other arms dealers suffered a loss of millions of dollars.

“Our place was targeted for no reason, as nobody fired a shot from there at the army,” said Deen. “The dealers just sell arms to tribesmen.”

The army lifted the curfew so that tribal elders and militants could hold a meeting to try to resolve the conflict, said intelligence officials. The jirga included members of the Haqqani network, an Afghan group, and also Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a powerful Pakistani militant commander believed to be close to Pakistan, they said.

 

Suicide Bomber Targets Tribal Police in Bajaur Agency

PESHAWAR / KHAR: A teenage suicide bomber targeted tribal police in Bajaur Agency on Friday, killing at least 25 people, including seven law-enforcers – one of whom was the recipient of a presidential medal for valour.
At least 72 people were also wounded in the attack that targeted a Levies checkpoint in a busy marketplace of Khar, the main town in Bajaur Agency.
The outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement emailed to The Express Tribune.

Levies Subedar Quarter Master Fazl Rabi embraced martyrdom in the suicide blast.

TTP spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan said that their targets were Levies officials Subedar Major Javed Khan and Subedar Quarter Master Fazl Rabi.
Fazal Rabi, according to Ehsan, was honoured with a ‘presidential award’ (Tamgha-e-Shujaat or medal of bravery) for killing several Taliban fighters. “While (Subedar) Major Javed was involved in the killing of Shaikh Marwan,” he said.
Shaikh Marwan was an Arab militant commander who was killed by Levies personnel before the 2008 military operation in Bajaur Agency.
The suicide attack came on the heels of two back-to-back explosions that killed five people, among them three Levies officials, in the Chamarkand area of Bajaur on Thursday.
After Thursday’s blasts, local authorities had clamped an indefinite curfew on the region.
Political Agent Islam Zeb confirmed to The Express Tribune that Friday’s strike was carried out by a suicide bomber.
“Strict security measures were put in place after yesterday’s blast – yet we couldn’t thwart today’s suicide attack,” he added.
Police official Abdul Hasib Khan put the death toll at 25 killed and 72 injured. “The tally includes Levies officials Javed Khan and Master Fazl Rabi and their three colleagues,” he added.
Hasib Khan said that the suicide bomber was in his early 20s. He approached the security checkpoint in the middle of Khar Bazaar and detonated the explosives strapped to his body.
Political administration official Fida Muhammad told The Express Tribune that a senior leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Jaffar Shah, was also killed in the strike.
The injured were shifted to the Agency Headquarters Hospital in Khar and to the Lady Reading Hospital (LHR) in Peshawar. Medics at LHR said they have received four injured and half of them are in a critical condition.
A student, who was also injured in the attack, said that he was loading flour sacks onto a truck when the bomber struck. “There was a bang – and the truck’s tyres deflated suddenly. I was hit by shrapnel and ball bearings,” Zubair told The Express Tribune from his hospital bed in the LRH.
Another injured added that the bomber ran towards the Levies officials and detonated the explosives.
Commander of Bajaur Scouts Col Muhammad Shakeel Janua, while speaking to the media, said that the bomber might have come from across the border because ‘he was not a local resident’.
Bajaur Agency has been one of the toughest battlegrounds in the fight against the Taliban insurgency. The military conducted major operations there in 2008 and 2009 and has repeatedly declared it secure.
The TTP spokesperson said that the group knew all those involved in ‘activity’ against the Taliban, and warned that such people “will be treated with iron hands”.
The blast was the deadliest since February 17, when 31 people were killed by a suicide attack in Kurram Agency.
Since July 2007, up to 5,000 people have been killed in attacks blamed on the TTP and its allies, according to an AFP tally.

Courtesy: Express Tribune