Click map for full view. Taliban presence, by district and tribal agency, in the Northwest Frontier Province, Punjab, and the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies. Information on Taliban presence obtained from open source and derived by The Long War Journal based on the presence of Taliban shadow governments, levels of fighting, and reports from the region. Map created by Bill Raymond for The Long War Journal. Last updated: April 24, 2009.
The Taliban overran a local headquarters and captured 10 troops of the Dir Levies, a paramilitary police force, as fighting continues in the district the government claimed was secured four days ago. The military also claimed the Taliban suffered heavy casualties in Buner as al Qaeda encourage Pakistanis to rebel.
A company of 60 Taliban fighters attacked a Levies outpost in the town of Dir in the district of the same name, Dawn reported. The Levies are a paramilitary police force. A Subedar, one of the senior most ranks in the Levies, was among those captured during the assault. The Taliban released the Levies personnel just 13 hours after their capture.
The fighting in Dir continues despite claims from senior government and military officials that Dir was secured days ago. The military claimed seven Taliban fighters were killed during clashes in the Darmal region. A curfew has been imposed in the Madain region, a Taliban stronghold, Geo News reported. The military is shelling Taliban targets in Madain as well as in the Chakdara, another Taliban stronghold.
Fighting continues in Buner as peace talks are underway
The Pakistani military is battling for the fourth day in an effort to dislodge the Taliban in the district of Buner. The military continues to fight to take control of the strategic passes that lead into the district. The military claimed it secured the Ambala heights yesterday, but fighting is said to be raging for control of the ridge.
The military claimed another 55 to 60 Taliban fighters were killed during fighting in Buner over the past 24 hours. Previously, the military said an estimated 50 Taliban fighters were in Buner, and another 82 Taliban fighters were killed in Dir, putting the total Taliban reported killed at more than 190.
Between 500 and 1,000 Taliban and al Qaeda fighters, led by Ibn Amin, are thought to be operating in Buner. No estimate is available for Taliban forces in Dir.
Despite the Taliban resistance in Buner and Dir, the government is eager to restore the peace agreement, known as the Malakand Accord. The peace agreement called for the end of military operations in Swat and the imposition of sharia, or Islamic law, in the districts of Malakand, Swat, Shangla, Buner, Dir, Chitral, and Kohistan, a region that encompasses nearly one-third of the Northwest Frontier Province.
The government is in active talks with Sufi Mohammed, the leader of the banned pro-Taliban Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammed [TNSM or the Movement for the Enforcement of Mohammed’s Law]. Sufi is supposed to be the intermediary in negotiations but has openly sided with the Taliban, led by his son-in-law Mullah Fazlullah.
Sufi is demanding that the military end operations in Dir and Buner, and insists on personally approving the judges for the Islamic courts.
The TNSM has admitted in the past it can control the violence in Pakistan’s northwest, and again confirmed this. “The fighting will end automatically [after the enforcement of sharia],” said Izzat Khan, a spokesman for Sufi. “We are ready for talks with the government on the appointment of judges and a ceasefire in the region.”
Al Qaeda leader calls for uprising
As the fighting continues in the northwest, a senior al Qaeda leader has called for Pakistanis to fight the Pakistani Army and the government.
“Muslims in Pakistan, and especially their clerics, should prepare themselves and rise up to perform the duty … of fighting the Pakistani army and the rest of the apparatus that are the pillars of their tyrannical state,” said Abu Yahya al Libi, a senior al Qaeda spokesman and ideologue, in a 29-page document released on the Internet.
Al Libi described the Pakistani government and military as tools of the West.
“The criminals in the Pakistani government and its army have not only been a cover for the occupying crusader infidels in Afghanistan, they have directly helped them in committing all their crimes in Afghanistan and elsewhere,” Al Libi said, according to excerpts provided by Reuters.
Al Libi was the first al Qaeda leader to urge the Pakistani people and the Army to turn against then-President Pervez Musharraf’s regime after the military stormed the radical Red Mosque in the heart of Islamabad. Zawahiri and bin Laden have repeated this call to rebellion several times since then.
The US put a $5 million bounty out for al Libi at the end of March 2009. Al Libi was a military commander in Afghanistan until his capture by the US military during 2003. He rose to prominence in al Qaeda after he escaped from Bagram Prison in Afghanistan in the summer of 2005, along with senior al Qaeda operatives Abu Nasir al Qahtani, Abu Abdallah al Shami, and Omar Farouq. Al Libi is the only member of the notorious “Bagram Four” active in al Qaeda; the others have been killed or captured.
For more information on Buner and operations in the region, see:
April 30, 2009
April 30, 2009
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