Taliban, Pakistani troops clash in Darra Adam Khel
The fighting in northwestern Pakistan has spread from the tribal agency of South Waziristan to the north in Orakzai agency. Pakistani troops battled Taliban fighters in the city of Darra Adam Khel after the Taliban hijacked a military convoy carrying supplies and ammunition for Pakistani troops. Six soldiers were captured during the hijacking.
Thirty-four Taliban and two Pakistani soldiers have been killed after the Pakistani military cordoned the Darra Adam Khel region and launched an assault to retake the trucks and clear the area of Taliban forces. "Heavy shelling has been taking place with artillery and gunship helicopters while militants claim to have taken control of Zarghoonkhel checkpost,' Geo TV reported.
The security situation in Orakzai has slowly deteriorated as the Taliban took effective control of the tribal agency over the past two years. The Pakistani military denied rumors it would launch military operations to clear the Taliban from the area. The city of Darra Adam Khel is a notorious weapons bazaar where the Taliban and criminal elements obtain hand-crafted firearms.
The Pakistani military launched the assault after two peace jirgas, or councils, were formed in an attempt to get the Taliban to surrender the trucks and supplies. The soldiers were released.
The supply convoy was destined for Miramshah, North Waziristan. The military launched an offensive against the Taliban in neighboring South Waziristan on Jan. 23 after the Taliban overran two forts and conducted numerous attacks against Pakistani forces. The military has used a base in Ramzak in the south of North Waziristan to attack Taliban forces in Makeen.
A sketch map of North and South Waziristan. Blue arrows are Pakistani army movements. Map from The Khyber Gateway. Click to view.
The Pakistani military claimed 40 Taliban fighters and eight soldiers were killed during the operation, and another 40 Taliban were captured. Maulvi Omar, the spokesman for Baitullah Mehsud, the commander of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, disputed the claim. Omar said 25 Pakistani soldiers and seven Taliban fighters were killed in the battles.
"It seems that armed forces are conquering India," Omar said, mocking the Pakistani military's account of the fighting in South Waziristan. "But [Taliban] loyal to Baitullah Mehsud are bravely resisting the military across South Waziristan Agency."
Omar also stated the Pakistani military will have a difficult time establishing control in South Waziristan. "Entrance to Waziristan is easy but maintaining writ there could be a very difficult task for them," Omar said.
See The Fall of the Northwest Frontier Province for the full history of the rise of the Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan's tribal regions and beyond.