Pakistan begins offensive against Taliban

Reuters/NY Times:

Pakistani security forces launched an offensive on Sunday to stop the Taliban's advances in a troubled northwestern region, the military said.

The operation in the North West Frontier Province came amid growing worries in the United States about the stability of its nuclear-armed ally after militants began extending their clout.

"Intense exchange of fire is going on in Lower Dir," a military spokesman told Reuters.

He said scores of militants, including a commander, and a soldier had been killed in the operation.

A military official said the security forces captured the Lal Qila area from the militants after a fierce battle.

The operation began after militants opened fire on a convoy of paramilitary Frontier Corps in the region, wounding four soldiers.

"Helicopter gunships are pounding militants' positions in the hills. There has been intense fighting. A curfew has been imposed. We are now confined to our houses," Ali Shah who runs a grocery shop in Timergara, the main town of Lower Dir, told Reuters by telephone.

Lower Dir is part of Malakand division where President Asif Ali Zardari reluctantly sanctioned the imposition of Islamic sharia law aimed at ending militant violence.

...

Pakistan's allies want to see a coherent, decisive action by Islamabad against militants, and analysts say Zardari may want to show some steel before talks in Washington with President Barack Obama and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai on May 6-7.

A militant spokesman in Dir said the government offensive was a violation of the peace pact and they would take revenge for it.

"We know the people who launched this offensive and they are on the top of our hit-list. We will not spare them," militant spokesman Dadullah Mansur said.

...
I will try to get a better handle on the geography of where the fighting is taking place, but it maybe in a part of Swat. Clearly Pakistan needs to have a more coherent strategy and it also needs to destroy the Taliban fighters. Failure to destroy them will lead to a large numbers of deaths and misery for anyone living under the religious control freaks.

CNN has this description of the location of the fighting:

...

This comes as Pakistan's Frontier Corps launched an offensive against suspected militants and their hideouts in Lower Dir, which neighbors the violence-plagued Swat.

The suspected militant hideouts targeted by the military are in Islampura and Lal Qila in Lower Dir. A "heavy exchange of fire" was reported at both Kala Dag and Lal Qila.

There were reports of many Taliban deaths, including an "important local commander." One security force member was killed and four others were wounded, the military said.

...


This puts the fighting near Swat. I will try to get more on the terrain and hopefully find a map of the area.

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