Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Pakistani Military Launches Operation in Khyber Tribal Agency

Via The Long War Journal -

The Pakistani military has launched an operation against extremists operating in the Khyber tribal agency. The operation was launched after a suicide bomber killed 22 border guards at the Torkham crossing last week.

More than 40 extremists were killed, including two commanders, and another 43 were captured, according to Tariq Hayat, the Political Agent for Khyber. Three "militant bases" were destroyed, according to a press release by the paramilitary Frontier Corps, while an indefinite curfew has been imposed in the region.

The military is relying heavily on artillery and Cobra helicopter gunships instead of engaging the extremists on the ground, according to reports received by The Long War Journal. Only three soldiers have been wounded during the operation, claims the military.

The military would not name the group or groups that are the target of the operation. According to Geo News the operation "is being carried out against miscreants not against any specific person or a group."

The operation was launched in the Bara region in Khyber, the stronghold of the Lashkar-e-Islam, a pro-Taliban group led by Mangal Bagh Afridi. He is reported to be listed by the interior ministry as one of the top ten most-wanted extremist leaders. During the operation, the father of a Lashkar-e-Islam commander was detained, and a spokesman for the group has called for the military to end the offensive.

Two other extremist groups are known to operate in the region. The Ansar-ul-Islam, a rival extremist group, operates in Khyber, as does the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. Hakeemullah Mehsud, the new leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, commanded forces in Khyber and was behind many of the attacks against NATO supply convoys moving through the region.

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