38 Taliban killed as Pakistani Army continues operations

June 20th, 2009 - 7:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, June 20 (IANS) Pakistani security forces have killed 38 Taliban - the bulk of them in the South Waziristan agency along the border with Afghanistan - the military said Saturday as its offensive against the militants continued for the 55th day.
“During the last 24 hours (to Saturday afternoon), 38 terrorists were killed and six were apprehended,” while five soldiers and an officer were killed, an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement said.

Sixteen soldiers and a junior commissioned officer were injured in the Malakand region of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the South Waziristan agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

The bulk of the Taliban casualties - 32 - occurred in South Waziristan.

“Terrorists had blocked the road between Tanai to Sarwaki. Road opening and road clearance operations are being conducted from Tanai to Sarwaki. Thirty-two terrorists were killed in Sarwaki in retaliatory fire by the security forces,” the statement said.

In the Swat district of the Malakand division, security forces carried out a search operation around Peochar, the statement said, adding that during an exchange of fire, three terrorists, including the brother of militant commander Yousaf were apprehended.

“A complex of four tunnels was also destroyed,” the statement said.

Peochar was the headquarters of Swat Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah, who has been on the run since the operations began.

“Security forces successfully secured Kotlai, Chungai, Zara Khela and commenced operations towards Dagai. During an exchange of fire with terrorists, one security forces personnel was injured,” the statement said.

The operations began April 26 after the Taliban reneged on a controversial peace deal with the NWFP government and instead moved south from their Swat headquarters and occupied Buner, which is just 100 km from Islamabad.

The operations had begun in Lower Dir, the home district of Taliban-backed radical cleric Sufi Mohammad, who had brokered the peace deal and who is Fazlullah’s father-in-law. They later spread to Buner and Lower Dir - and to South Waziristan earlier this month.

South Waziristan is the headquarters of Baitullah Mehsud, who heads the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the umbrella group of various Taliban groups operating in the country. Mehsud is also accused of having a hand in the Dec 27, 2007, gun and bomb attack that killed former prime minister Benazir Bhutto as she left a political rally in the garrison town of Rawalpindi adjacent to Islamabad.

The military says it has largely secured Buner and Lower Dir districts and is now engaged in mopping up operations in Swat. A offensive in South Waziristan is in its initial phase.

To go by the military’s figures, close to 1,500 Taliban have been killed in the operations so far. There is, however, no independent verification of this since the media has been barred from the battle zone.

As an editorial in leading English daily The News succinctly put it Saturday: “Daily updates from military spokesmen tell us of casualties on both sides and the location of some operations in the preceding twenty-four hours. They are never accompanied by contemporary footage, a map or any supporting documentation of some of the dead Taliban, for instance.”

The military operations have displaced some three million civilians from the three districts of NWFP, the government has claimed.

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