Pakistan says recaptures 'key' Taliban town in South Waziristan

Pakistani forces backed by helicopter gunships and artillery recaptured a strategic town from Taliban fighters after fierce attacks, officials said.

Pakistan says recaptures 'key' Taliban town in South Waziristan

Pakistani forces backed by helicopter gunships and artillery recaptured a strategic town from Taliban fighters after fierce attacks, officials said on Saturday.

Kotkai town in South Waziristan has changed hands three times since the army launched a major offensive on Taliban a week ago.

It is also the birthplace of Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud and the home town of Qari Hussain Mehsud, a senior commander.

Last Saturday, Pakistan's army began a ground offensive in the region with near 30.000 soldiers after U.S. ramped up a huge amount of military aid.

Pakistan opposition angered the aid bill over U.S. move to tie an important part of funds to offensive against Taliban and some fund is seen by critics as violating sovereignty.

A senior government official said security forces entered Kotkai on Friday evening and were now clearing the area. Government troops first took the town on Monday, but the Taliban retook control a day later.

"A fierce battle was fought there and now our forces have taken control of the town and a mopping-up operation is going on," said the official, who declined to be identified.

Another security official said at least eight fighters were killed in the fighting.

Officials said security forces were now advancing towards another Taliban bastion, Kanigorum.

Civilians fleing

Tens of thousands of people have fled their homes in South Waziristan amid fears the exodus to become a humanitarian crisis, as did a similar offensive in the Swat Valley earlier this year.

More than 100,000 civilians have fled from South Waziristan, with about 32,000 of them leaving since Oct. 13, the United Nations said. Up to 200,000 people could flee, the army says.


The rise in urban attacks by fighters as a response to government offensive is taking a toll, however.

A suicide bomber killed eight people outside a key airforce facility on Friday. Hours later, a car bomb outside a restaurant in the northwestern city of Peshawar wounded 15 people.

U.S. drone attacks

A U.S. drone aircraft fired on Saturday misiles and killed at least 14 Pakistanis in the neighbouring tribal area of Bajaur, a government official said.

A government offic ial claimed that the attacked tergeted a Taliban commender's house.

He said the commander, Maulvi Faqir, narrowly "escaped", but two of his relatives were killed.

About 28,000 soldiers are battling an estimated 10,000 hardcore Taliban.

Pakistani and foreign journalists are not allowed anywhere near the battle zone.

Independent confirmation of casualty figures has not been possible.

Reuters
Last Mod: 24 Ekim 2009, 14:57
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