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Rediff.com  » News » Pak closes in on Baitullah Mehsud

Pak closes in on Baitullah Mehsud

June 15, 2009 13:55 IST

All roads now lead to Baitullah Mehsud

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Pakistan's offensive against the Taliban militia enters its decisive moment as its forces inch closer to Taliban warlord Baitullah Mehsud. Undeterred by the spate of bombings across the country, the troops have been making headway, flushing out Talibs street by street, mountain by mountain.

Mehsud is believed to have planned the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, an allegation that he rejects.


Image: A tank passes through a street past damaged shops at Maidan at Lower Dir district in the Swat region on June 13
Photographs: Mian Khursheed/Reuters
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One aim: 'Eliminate these beasts'

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Owais Ahmed Ghani, the province's governor, announced that the army would extend its fight against militants to the portion of Waziristan abutting the border with Afghanistan. The offensive in Waziristan will target an area that has been rumoured to be Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's hide-out.

"The military and law-enforcing agencies have been ordered to carry out a full-scale operation to eliminate these beasts and killers," Ghani told media persons on June 14.


Image: Soldiers take away a blindfolded suspected militant after showing him to the media in Lower Dir district in Swat region
Photographs: Mian Khursheed/Reuters
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Acts of retaliation

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At least 31 militants, including a few foreigners, were killed and 50 more injured at Makeen in South Waziristan Agency in air strikes carried out by fighter jets since June 13.

The air strikes were launched in retaliation for two suicide attacks on the compound of Jamia Naeemia in Lahore and a mosque inside the cantonment in northwestern Nowshera city. Anti-Taliban scholar Sarfraz Naeemi and four security personnel were among those killed in the suicide attacks.


Image: The body of Muslim cleric Sarfraz Naeemi being taken to the burial site inside Jamia Naeemia mosque
Photographs: Mohsin Raza/Reuters
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US drones do their bit for Pakistan

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The Los Angeles Times, quoting Pakistani and US analysts, said the military value of such strikes is usually more than offset by the loss of public goodwill. The highly unpopular programme, which has killed many civilians, has been viewed in Pakistan as an affront to the nation's sovereignty, it added. 

US drone strikes have also aided the Pakistani forces, denting the Taliban defences. On June 14, a spy plane fired a missile at several vehicles in the South Waziristan tribal region -- the first drone attack in Pakistan's tribal belt since mid-May.


Image: A soldier stands inside house of Muslim cleric Maulana Sufi Mohammad after it was taken over by security forces during operation in Maidan at Lower Dir district, in the Swat region
Photographs: Mian Khursheed/Reuters
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Taking on Mehsud won't be a cakewalk

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The BBC, quoting analysts, says that in many ways a full-scale operation in South Waziristan would be harder than the recent fighting in the Swat valley.

According to the Telegraph, Mehsud, described by US authorities as a 'key Al-Qaeda facilitator', leads an estimated 10,000 heavily armed men in Waziristan.

Also, it is believed that the offensive will displace 500,000 people. Already, nearly 2 million people have been displaced following the offensive in the Swat valley.


Image: Internally displaced people wait in line to receive cash funds at the UNHCR Jalozai camp, 140 km northwest of Islamabad
Photographs: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters
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