In ‘principled decision’, Pakistan to target Taliban’s MehsudJune 16th, 2009 - 8:54 pm ICT by IANS
Islamabad, June 16 (IANS) The Pakistani government has taken a “principled decision” to go after Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud in the volatile South Waziristan region along the border with Afghanistan and the army has received the “requisite orders” for this, the military said Tuesday.
“The government has taken a principled decision to launch a military operation against Baitullah Mehsud and his network,” an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement said, adding: “The army has received requisite orders.”
“Necessary steps/measures are being taken by the military in this regard,” the statement said.
Mehsud heads the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the umbrella group of various Taliban groups operating in the country. His writ largely runs in the ungovernable South Waziristan agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
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.
On Sunday, North West Frontier Province Governor Owais Ghani said the Pakistani military would train its guns on Mehsud once its anti-Taliban operations in three districts of the NWFP are concluded.
“The army has been ordered to launch a crackdown against militants in FATA,” he said, adding: “The details and the strategy of operation will be decided by the army.”
“The government has repeatedly warned the Mehsud tribe through the tribal elders to give up their miscreant’s activities and advised them not to shelter foreign militants. Otherwise the government would not tolerate any act against the security to people’s lives and property at any cost,” Ghani maintained.
“Keeping in view all this, the government has decided to launch an operation against militants in FATA. It has been decided that a comprehensive and decisive operation will be launched to dismantle and eliminate Baitullah Mehsud and his network,” the governor said.
The Pakistani military began its NWFP operations April 26 after the Taliban reneged on a controversial peace deal with the provincial 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 the father-in-law of Swat Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah. They later spread to Buner and Lower Dir.
The military says it has largely secured Buner and Lower Dir districts and is now engaged in mopping up operations in Swat.
To go by military figures, over 1,450 Taliban have been killed in the fighting. There is, however, no independent confirmation of this as the media has been barred from the battle zone.
Some three million civilians have been displaced from the three districts by the military operations.
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