Friday, October 30, 2009

Pakistani Troops Advance on Uzbek Stronghold in South Waziristan

Via The Long War Journal -

Pakistani troops are close to surrounding a key town in South Waziristan that is used by members of an Uzbek terror group allied with al Qaeda and the Taliban. Meanwhile, the military found passports linked to senior al Qaeda operatives, one of whom was involved in the 9/11 attack, at a recently seized terror camp.

Eleven Taliban fighters and one soldier were reported killed during the fighting over the past 24 hours. The military claims more than 260 Taliban fighters and 31 soldiers have been killed since the operation was launched against the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan on Oct 17.

The military is advancing on the town of Kanigorum from Shakai in the southwest, and said it has surrounded it from three directions. The goal is to seal off the exits before launching the final assault. The battle for Kanigoram is expected to be fierce, as fighters belonging to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan are known to use the region as a base.

The US has conducted two covert strikes in Kanigoram this year. An attack on Aug. 27 killed eight Taliban fighters and Uzbek fighters. Waliur Rehman Mehsud, the Taliban commander for South Waziristan, was the target of the attack. An April 29 strike on a safe house and a vehicle killed 10 Taliban fighters.

The Pakistani Army is also reported to be about three miles from the town of Sararogha. The military is advancing on Sararogha from Jandola in the southeast. Troops have advanced toward Sararogha after taking control of Kotkai. Waliur Rehman is thought to be directing Taliban operations from Sararogha.

The Pakistani Army also announced that it had seized control of an al Qaeda training camp when it took control of the village of Sherwangi on Oct. 25. Among the items found at the Sherwangi camp was a passport belonging to Said Bahaji, one of the al Qaeda operatives who participated in the 9/11 attacks on the US.

Bahaji was close to Mohammed Atta, the tactical commander of the 9/11 attacks. He was also an aide to Ramzi Binalshibh, who served as the link between 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Atta. Bahaji is known to have traveled to Karachi from Hamburg on Sept. 3, 2001, just eight days before the attack.

Also recovered at the Sherwangi camp was a passport belonging to Raquel Gacia Burgos, the wife of Amer Azizi, a senior al Qaeda operative who played a role in the train bombings in Madrid, Spain, in March 2004. The deadly attack killed 191 people. Azizi is known to be a senior leader of al Qaeda in Europe and has connections to al Qaeda affiliates in North Africa.

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