A sketch map of North and South Waziristan. Blue arrows are Pakistani army movements. Map from The Khyber Gateway. Click to view.
After nearly two weeks of conventional assaults by the Taliban against Pakistani military outposts and convoys, the military has launched an offensive in South Waziristan. The Army has moved over 600 soldiers, backed by tanks and helicopter gunships into the northern region of South Waziristan. The target is Baitullah Mehsud and his Taliban forces.
The military launched its offensive from three axes, The Nation reported. The Army attacked Makeen from Ramzak in North Waziristan, Ladha from Wana in the south, and Spinkai Raghzai from Jandola in the southeast. The Taliban are still in possession of the Sararogha Fort, which they captured Jan. 16 in a massed assault. Pakistani troops have been reported to be launching attacks on Taliban positions in the mountains. Heavy fighting has been reported at Jandola, and three tanks reportedly have been deployed for convoy protection.
Three battles have been fought at the Ladha Fort and the Taliban overran the Saklatoi Fort on Jan. 17. The Taliban abandoned the Saklatoi outpost after the military conducted a commando raid the next day.
The fighting has been reported to be fierce. “Both sides are using heavy weapons against each other at Jandola, Chaghmalai, and Spinkai-Raghzai areas of the region,” according to The Nation. The military is deploying tanks and artillery while the Taliban is using mortars, rockets, and heavy machine guns.
The military claimed 32 Taliban have been killed in the assault, and stated eight of its soldiers were killed and 32 wounded. The military claimed 40 Taliban were also captured.
Taliban spokesman Maulvi Omar disputed the government’s claims of heavy Taliban casualties. “Omar while confirming the advancement of the armed forces from three different sides claimed that Taliban had repulsed the military action with an iron hand in Spinkai Raghzai area,” The Nation reported. “He said that he was unable to give the exact figures of the casualties but a large number of security personnel had been wounded and killed.”
The Taliban have attempted to blunt the assault from the north by conducting a rocket and mortar barrage on the military outpost in Ramzak. An estimated 50 to 70 rockets and mortars were launched at the Ramzak base over a four-hour period. One soldier was killed and two wounded.
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.