All in a day’s work. But too bad it wasn’t 6,000 instead of 60. Not to worry, they (the Pakistani military) will get there.
60 Pakistan militants slain
PESHAWAR: Pakistani troops backed by helicopter gunships killed 60 Taleban and Al-Qaeda militants near the Afghan border, just days after the Marriott Hotel was bombed, officials said yesterday. Clashes erupted with Islamist fighters near the troubled northwestern city of Peshawar, where a soldier was also killed, and separately in the volatile tribal frontier region of Bajaur, they said. In northern Swat, another hub of unrest, at least five people were killed in police firing and three bank branches burn
t in rioting by a mob protesting this week’s killing of three children allegedly in mortar attack by security forces.
Pakistan’s new civilian government vowed at the weekend to crack down on militant “hotspots” in the wake of Saturday’s devastating suicide attack on the hotel in Islamabad, in which at least 60 people died. In the biggest battle, troops on Monday launched a “search and cordon” operation to clear extremists from a strategic road tunnel and other hideouts in Dara Adam Khel, a restive region just outside Peshawar, the army said. “Helicopter gunships and artillery are pounding the miscreants’ hideouts. More th
an 50 miscreants have been killed so far and one soldier was also martyred,” military spokesman Major Murad Khan said.
Khan said troops took control on Monday of the Japanese-built Kohat tunnel, a key road leading out of Peshawar that was occupied by hardline forces last month. Soldiers were now carrying out operations in the main bazaar in Dara Adam Khel, which is home to Pakistan’s biggest private weapons market, he said. Peshawar remains on high alert after gunmen kidnapped Afghanistan’s incoming ambassador, Abdul Khaliq Farahi, and shot dead his driver in the city on Monday. “We strongly suspect Farahi has been moved t
o some tribal district,” possibly Dara Adam Khel, a senior police officer involved in the hunt for the envoy told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Separately Pakistani troops killed six militants in a mortar attack on a militant vehicle, and another four in a gun battle in Bajaur on Monday, in both cases after rebels tried to attack security checkposts, officials said. Pakistani forces launched an operation in Bajaur last month, which officials say has left more than 800 people, mostly militants, dead. Nearly 300,000 residents have been displaced by the fighting. Analysts say the Marriott attack in Islamabad was likely in revenge for the offensive in
Bajaur-which is believed to be the hideout of Osama bin Laden’s Egyptian deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Pakistani officials say an Al-Qaeda cell based in Islamabad was believed to be behind the hotel blast, in which a suicide bomber rammed a truck into the outer gates of the Marriott. The attack has increased pressure on Islamabad to crack down on Al-Qaeda and Taleban militants in Pakistan’s tribal regions who are also accused of launching attacks on US and NATO troops in neighboring Afghanistan. Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari was due to hold his first face-to-face talks with US counterpart George W Bus
h yesterday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on the mounting violence.
Tensions between the allies in the “war on terror,” launched in 2001 after Al-Qaeda’s September 11 attacks, are at an all-time high after a series of incursions into Pakistan by US-led forces based in Afghanistan. Pakistani officials said their troops had fired into the air on Sunday to repel two US helicopter gunships approaching the tribal belt from Afghanistan. In a further indication of the instability in Pakistan, British Airways said it had “indefinitely” cancelled its six weekly flights to Islamabad
because of the turmoil. – AFP