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Taliban blamed for Pakistani army killings


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If the U.S. and the coalition are going to hit the Taliban and Al Qaeda hard, and raise the possibility of finding bin Laden, then they are going to have to go into this area......plain and simple....

I understand the sensitivities and ramifications of going into these tribal lands, especially for Pakistan and Musharaf, but doing it half-ass is not the answer either...

The assassination attempts on Musharaf would hopefully give him and his loyalists the understanding and will that they have to go into these areas, and the play they have called now is only giving strength, coordination, and resolve to the Taliban and AL Qaeda....

Time to deal with this once and for all....

Taliban blamed for army killings

By Ahmed Rashid in Lahore

(Filed: 10/01/2004)

Suspected Taliban and al-Qa'eda gunmen killed at least four Pakistani soldiers when they attacked an army base with rockets in the lawless border region near Afghanistan.

The attack early yesterday came a day after the Pakistani army launched a campaign in the remote tribal district and underlines growing unrest in the remote mountainous areas where Islamic militants, perhaps including Osama bin Laden, have found refuge.

Local officials told reporters that at least four soldiers were killed and three were wounded after militants fired the rockets at the army camp near Wana in the South Waziristan tribal agency.

Pakistan's military spokesman, Major General Shaukat Sultan, said that "the attackers fired a couple of rockets at the camp near Wana", but declined to give a precise figure on the casualties. Witnesses said firing went on for at least 45 minutes.

The rugged mountainous region is known to be a haven for al-Qa'eda and Taliban militants who have been launching attacks on American and Afghan troops based across the border.

There has been a spate of recent unconfirmed reports that Osama bin Laden may also be hiding in south Waziristan, where tribesmen are deeply anti-American and oppose Pakistan's support to the US forces in Afghanistan.

On Thursday, after intelligence reports that Pakistani tribesmen were giving sanctuary to foreign terrorists, the army launched an operation in the same region but failed to find anyone.

Troops, backed by helicopter gunships, destroyed two houses belonging to local tribesmen as punishment for hiding the foreign militants.

US Special Forces are known to be operating in the border region alongside the Pakistanis but officially Islamabad denies this.

Earlier this week Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Ambassador in Kabul who is presently in Washington, said that Pakistan must do more to contain Taliban elements operating along the border.

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Pakistan Army Issues Ultimatum to Al Qaeda Sympathizers

Saturday, January 10, 2004

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistani authorities gave tribal leaders a two-day ultimatum on Saturday to hand over three tribesmen believed to have sheltered Al Qaeda (search) terrorists near the Afghan border.

Troops meanwhile were hunting suspected Al Qaeda militants or tribesmen who fired rockets Thursday at an army camp in the border area, which is a possible hideout for Usama bin Laden (search) and other fugitives. The attack killed four soldiers and wounded five.

The Pakistani military came up empty-handed after launching a raid backed by helicopters Thursday to capture 15 to 20 suspected Al Qaeda fighters who were believed to be hiding at three compounds in the tiny village of Kalosha (search), near the border with Afghanistan.

Searches of the compounds turned up nothing, and the three owners as well as the Al Qaeda suspects eluded capture.

The operation took place near Wana in South Waziristan, one of Pakistan's deeply conservative, semiautonomous tribal areas in mountains along the Afghan border where bin Laden and other Al Qaeda members and supporters of Afghanistan's ousted Taliban (search) regime may be hiding.

The tribal elders were warned Saturday that the government will consider "serious action" against them if the owners of the three compounds are not handed over in two days, Rehmat Ullah, a senior official in the region, told The Associated Press.

Authorities promised to meet the demand of the elders and free 28 people who were taken into custody for questioning, Ullah said.

A Pakistani army camp was attacked with rocket fire Thursday after the raid, initially killing two soldiers. Two more later died in a hospital.

An intelligence officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was unclear who carried out the attack. The tribesmen often target Pakistani soldiers who venture into the area.

Pakistani officials have described Thursday's operation as minor, indicating bin Laden and other high-profile Al Qaeda members were not the targets.

Under Pakistani law, an entire tribe is responsible for any crime committed by one of its members and can be punished collectively. Tribal elders are expected to work with authorities and turn in any criminals. In return, the tribes have autonomy over their affairs.

The operations followed a series of attacks this week in Afghanistan that are suspected of being carried out by Taliban and possibly Al Qaeda fighters amid apparent new calls by bin Laden in a taped message for Muslims to attack U.S. forces and their allies.

Taliban fighters have staged several ambushes and frequently fire rockets at U.S. bases in the area, then retreat across the border into Pakistan. U.S. military officials have said that American troops were conducting routine operations in Afghanistan and were watching the border closely.

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