Dawn reports that about 30,000 Pakistani troops on Saturday moved into South Waziristan, a stronghold of the Mahsud tribe, whence have sprung important leaders of the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan or Pakistani Taliban Movement. One such leader, Baitullah Mahsud, was killed by a US drone strike this past August.
The fighting continued for a second day on Sunday morning, with the army meeting stiff resistance.
South Waziristan has a population of about 500,000. It is estimated to have 10,000 armed religious extremists, of whom about 1500 are foreigners, mostly dissident Uzbeks from secular Uzbekistan just north of Afghanistan.
Pakistani officials allege that 80% of the terrorism in Pakistan emanates from militants based in South Waziristan.
Aljazeera English reports on the beginning of the Pakistani army campaign against the Taliban and allied tribes in Waziristan.
AP also did a video report on the beginning of the campaign:
Aljazeera English reports on the frantic civilian exodus from Waziristan:
The USG Open Source Center translates an interview at the GEO Urdu-language satellite news station. This paragraph comparing the new operation to that in Swat last spring struck me as scary: “Not only that the resistance here would be much stronger than that in Swat but also the Taliban will mainly retaliate in the other parts of the country. Secondly, the Swat Taliban did not have many routes to flee the area nor was Swat located near the Afghan border from where they could receive reinforcement or where they could flee.” Here is the rest:
‘Pakistan: Analyst Says Stronger Taliban Resistance Likely Against Army Operation
Words within double slantlines as received in English
Geo News TV
Saturday, October 17, 2009 . . .
Document Type: OSC Translated Text . . .
Now we will discuss Waziristan operation. We have senior analyst Salim Safi with us on telephone line:
(Begin live relay) (anchorperson Gharida Faruqi) Mr Safi, the Swat operation was very successful and was completed in a short time but certain circles are expressing doubts about Waziristan operation. You are one of them. You have also written a //column// in today’s Jang. Why are you opposing this operation?
(Safi) Gharida, in fact, I believe that unless certain other aspects of this issue are resolved we will probably not be able to achieve the desired results only by launching an operation in South Waziristan. Not only that the resistance here would be much stronger than that in Swat but also the Taliban will mainly retaliate in the other parts of the country. Secondly, the Swat Taliban did not have many routes to flee the area nor was Swat located near the Afghan border from where they could receive reinforcement or where they could flee But you can see that foreigners are present in South Waziristan. Foreigners are also there in Ahmadzai Wazir area.
The operation is not going on in North Waziristan but you see that on the very first day a retaliatory action was taken there. The other thing is that during this time….(pauses) Though the government has made full preparations this time and it seems that in this operation the forces will show greater seriousness than the previous operations and aerial and land power will also be used extensively. But on the other hand the Taliban have also made full preparations in that area and then they have //sleeper cells// in different parts of the country who have sent their activists in different areas and especially the banned organizations… (interrupted)
(Faruqi) Mr Safi, you are talking about the preparation of the Taliban and you said that this time a stronger resistance might be faced. What type of greater resistance? What type of greater preparation?
(Safi) In fact, during the past two or three years when operations were initially launched in Waziristan there were only local Taliban or Arab, Uzbek or Chechen militants with were there them. But during the past three-four years this development has taken place that the Taliban have established links with the banned organizations of Pakistan — some jihadi and sectarian outfits. Leadership of most of these organizations is either in their hands or the Al-Qa’ida is providing //coordination// among these groups. So, now trained people from those outfits are present in every nook and corner of the country. As we have seen in the past week mostly these were the elements active in the attack on the GHQ and in the attacks in Lahore.
(Faruqi) Thank you very much, Salim Safi, for talking to Geo News. (end of live relay)
(Description of Source: Karachi Geo News TV in Urdu — 24-hour satellite news TV channel owned by Pakistan’s Jang publishing group, broadcast from Dubayy. Known for providing quick and detailed reports of events. Programs include some Indian shows and dramas which the group claims are aimed at promoting people-to-people contact and friendly relations with India.) ‘
End/ (Not Continued)