Pakistan claimed to have killed 42 Taliban militants today in some of the heaviest fighting in its recent major offensive, after the second gun attack on a senior army officer in the capital in less than a week. Planes and helicopters waged multiple bombing sorties for an 11th day against Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in South Waziristan, pressing its most ambitious battle yet in a tribal area infested with al Qa'eda-linked rebels.
It has been impossible to obtain independent information from the battle field, which is sealed off to journalists and aid workers, and from which more than 200,000 civilians have fled a third of the estimated district population. Pakistan has won US endorsement for its vow to crush TTP, which has claimed some of the worst bombings in a two-year campaign that has killed more than 2,280 people in the nuclear-armed country on the border with Afghanistan.
Jet fighters and helicopter gunships pounded Ladha and Makin in South Waziristan on Tuesday, where ground troops hope to encircle militant bastions after claiming to have captured strategic mountain tops and villages. The military, which is so far the only source of casualty figures, said 42 militants and one soldier were killed, bringing to 239 the total number of insurgents and to 31 the number of troops to have died during the operation.
Around 30,000 troops are pitted against an estimated 10-12,000 militants in the semi autonomous and lawless tribal belt but experts say far more soldiers are needed for a successful counter insurgency campaign. * AFP