Pakistan Launches Waziristan Operation, Several Killed
Pakistan Army has launched a big operation in Waziristan tribal region. There are reports of great casualities as the Army troops have been making advance to the positions of terrorists. The army troops have also clashed with terrorists in Mohmand, another tribal agency killing dozens of militants. There are reports of civilian deaths in the fighting. The situation is very very critical at the moment as the tribesmen have started mass migration from their areas.
"More than 30,000 Pakistani soldiers launched a much-awaited ground offensive in an al-Qaeda and Taliban stronghold along the Afghan border early Saturday, officials told The Associated Press.
Four soldiers were killed and 12 others wounded during clashes in Waziristan the army said. Meanwhile nine militants have so far been killed in the operation.
'The army has launched an operation after receiving orders from the government. The operation was launched early in the morning. Both air and ground troops are taking part,' Major General Athar Abbas told AFP.
The offensive in South Waziristan follows months of air strikes intended to soften up militant defences that have also forced tens of thousands of civilians to flee.
South Waziristan is a key base for foreign and national militant groups planning attacks on American and Nato targets in Afghanistan and beyond. The US is racing to send in night-vision goggles and other equipment to aid the latest operation.
The region is remote and mountainous. It has a leaky border with Afghanistan and fiercely independent tribes who have long resisted government interference. With winter snows just weeks away, the army has limited time to pursue a major ground attack there, and even if it does manage to wipe out its intended targets, it’s unclear whether troops will occupy the area or for how long.
The officials Saturday – two with intelligence, three with the government and one senior army official – gave few details but said the troops were pursuing militants holed up in the region, including in major trouble spots such as Ladha and Makeen towns.
The army has sent more than 30,000 troops to the region to participate in the combat, said one of the intelligence officials. He said the ground forces were attacking from different directions while helicopter gunships and other aircraft also were bombing various sites.
The military already has said it already has sealed off many supply and escape routes.
All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information or because they did not have authority to release it to media on the record.
In a previous interview with AP, army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said the assault would be limited to slain Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud’s holdings – a swath of territory that stretches roughly 3,310 square kilometres.
The plan is to capture and hold the area where Abbas estimates 10,000 insurgents are headquartered and reinforced with about 1,500 foreign fighters, most of them of Central Asian origin. ‘There are Arabs, but the Arabs are basically in the leadership, providing resources and expertise and in the role of trainers,’ he said.
Taliban spokesmen could not immediately be reached for comment Saturday.
Communications in and around the region appeared jammed, making it difficult to reach local residents or other witnesses.
The army expects the militants to use guerrilla tactics including ambushes, suicide attacks and roadside bombs.
Despite sometimes rocky relations with the Pakistani military, the US is trying to rush in equipment that would help with mobility, night fighting and precision bombing, a US Embassy official told The Associated Press in a recent interview, speaking on condition of anonymity because the issue is politically sensitive.
In addition to night-vision devices, the Pakistan military has said it is seeking additional Cobra helicopter gunships, heliborne lift capability, laser-guided munitions and intelligence equipment to monitor cell and satellite telephones.
The army has considered the weather in the timing the offensive. Snows in the region could block major roads. At the same time, a harsh winter could work to the army’s advantage by driving fighters out of their unheated mountain hideouts."