PAF,SSG GO INTO ACTION AGAINST MEHSUDS
INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR--PAPER NO.356
Two platoons of the US-trained Special Services Group (SSG) of the Pakistan Army, accompanied by Peshawar-based units of the Frontier Corps (FC), were helicopter-lifted to South Waziristan on January 18,2008, to beat back a group of about 150 Mehsuds and Uzbeks, who had assembled in an attempt to capture a third fort near Laddah, in which an outpost of the FC was located. They dispersed the jihadis after killing about 60 of them. Another platoon of the SSG recaptured the fort at Siplatoi, which had been taken over by the Mehsuds on January 17, 2008, after the FC personnel posted there surrendered or ran away without a fight.
2. The Army has also started moving troops of the regular Army by road in order to strengthen the morale of the FC personnel deployed in South Waziristan. The Mehsuds tried to ambush an army convoy on the Jandola-Wana road, but their ambush did not succeeed. The troops in the convoy took up position and beat back the attackers after killing about 20 of them.
3. Simultaneously, two fighter aircraft of the Pakistan Air Force and two helicopter gunships of the army made repeated punitive strikes on Mehsud-majority villages. These air strikes continued intermittently the whole of January 18,2008. More Pakistani troops from regular army units are likely to be rushed to South Waziristan on January 19,2008.
4. The Army has been desperately trying to kill or capture Maulana FM Radio Fazlullah of the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) of the Swat Valley and Baitullah, the Amir of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, who operates from South Waziristan, but it has not so far succeeded for want of precise intelligence regarding their whereabouts.
5.The Air Force has alerted all its stations in the country to strengthen security in anticipation of a reprisal attack by the terrorists outside the tribal area. The use of fighter planes for air strikes against the Uzbeks in the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan in October,2007, had led to a suicide attack on a bus carrying PAF personnel to a PAF base near Sargodha in Punjab.
6. The Army is worried over the media giving publicity to what it alleges to be unsubstantiated claims of the Taliban, which tends to have an adverse impact on the morale of the para-military forces.(19-1-08)
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )