Pakistan finally fights back against Taliban
The NY Times reports that the Taliban had surrounded Peshawar and had started trying to impose their weird religious beliefs on residents starting at the court houses in the area.
The Pakistani military has launched an offensive against militants near the main north-western city of Peshawar, security officials said.
Militants have become more active in and around Peshawar in recent months, say correspondents.
A contingent of troops has blocked the road towards Afghanistan, imposed a curfew and ordered shops to shut.
Pakistani militant leader Baitullah Mehsud said he was suspending peace talks with the government.
Troops have moved into the Khyber tribal region, close to Peshawar, with tanks and armoured vehicles.
Mortar rounds have been fired at suspected militant hide-outs in the mountains of the Khyber region, west of Peshawar.
There has been no resistance, so far. No casualties, so far," Malik Naveed Khan, police chief of North West Frontier Province, told Reuters news agency.
Other officials said they thought most of the militants may have left the region ahead of the attack.
The Khyber Pass is one of the principal routes into Afghanistan from Pakistan and has long been a haven for smugglers and bandits.
After the attack began, Baitullah Mehsud told the BBC he was suspending talks with the government because security forces were targeting his forces in other regions.
The government has been in talks with him in an effort to pacify the tribal areas.
The militants the government is acting against are not part of the wider Taleban movement in Pakistan, but are still Islamists who wish to enforce their brand of Islam, says the BBC's Haroon Rashid in Islamabad.
In the last two months, Taliban militants have suddenly tightened the noose on this city of three million people, one of Pakistan’s biggest, establishing bases in surrounding towns and, in daylight, abducting residents for high ransoms.I think the attacks are a sign the government is starting to recognize the futility of negotiating with weirdos who think they are on a mission from God. The miscreants, as Pakistan calls them don't have much room for compromise when it means missing their ticket to Paradise.
The militants move unchallenged out of the lawless tribal region, just 10 miles away, in convoys of heavily armed, long haired and bearded men. They have turned up at courthouses in nearby towns, ordering judges to stay away. On Thursday they stormed a women’s voting station on the city outskirts, and they are now regularly kidnapping people from the city’s bazaars and homes. There is a feeling that the city gates could crumble at any moment.
The threat to Peshawar is a sign of the Taliban’s deepening penetration of Pakistan and of the expanding danger that the militants present to the entire region, including nearby supply lines for NATO and American forces in Afghanistan.
For the United States, the major supply route for weapons for NATO troops runs from the port of Karachi to the outskirts of Peshawar and through the Khyber Pass to the battlefields of Afghanistan. Maintaining that route would be extremely difficult if the city were significantly infiltrated by the very militants who want to defeat the NATO war effort across the border.
The attempt to take control of Peshawar appears to be part of a strategic plan to get control of US and NATO supply lines into Afghanistan. The Taliban have failed in their attempts to do battle in Afghanistan and even in attacking the supply convoys once they get to Afghanistan. This appears to be a desperate attempt to do it indirectly in Pakistan.
Mehsud's statement that he is suspending talks with the Pakistan government is laughable. He was never pursuing those talks in good faith anyway. The guy needs to be a primary target for a Hellfire from a Predator. He is very likely to be behind many of the recent attacks in Afghanistan.
Reuters has more on the battle with the miscreants.
ABC News reports:
...This should give you some idea why I call their religious beliefs weird.
"I am really alarmed by the way things are moving," said Lt. Gen. Talat Massood, a former defense secretary. "It's not just creeping Talibanization. Now it's rapidly advancing."
This week alone, militants held a public execution before thousands of cheering supporters, torched the country's only ski resort and threatened music shop owners with dire consequences if they didn't close down.
They bombed schools for girls, and even held a march in an upscale Peshawar suburb, warning women not to come out on the streets.