Red agencies/ districts controlled by the Taliban; purple is defacto control; yellow is under threat
The Taliban have kidnapped four Pakistani paramilitary forces in the town of Makeen in the tribal agency of South Waziristan. Makeen is the last reported location of Pakistani Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud, who has privately claimed credit for Benazir Bhutto’s assassination.
The four Pakistani paramilitary soldiers of the South Waziristan Scouts were kidnapped after the Taliban attacked the Ladha Fort near the town of Makeen. The Taliban “seized the soldiers as they descended from their observation post on a hill near Makeen in South Waziristan,” AFP reported. “The rebels launched rocket and mortar attacks on a military base near Ladda town from rugged terrain bordering Afghanistan,” a security official told the news organization.
The Pakistani military “retaliated and launched an operation supported by artillery fire,” reported the Associated Press of Pakistan, the news service of the Pakistani government. Five Taliban were killed and 20 captured. “A Jirga was convened on the request of the local elders, which decided to implement a cease-fire for next 24 hours.”
South Waziristan is the home of Baitullah Mehsud, the commander of newly created Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, or Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. Baitullah, in a phone conversation with Maulvi Sahib, one of his underlings, admitted to carrying out the assassination of former prime minister and Pakistani People’s Party leader Benazir Bhutto.
The Pakistani intelligence service intercepted a phone conversation where Baitullah congratulated Sahib for conducting the attack. In the same conversation, Baitullah instructed Sahib to visit him at the home of one of his Taliban commanders in Makeen.
“I am at Makeen,” Baitullah said. “Come over, I am at Anwar Shah’s house.”
The Pakistan military had actionable intelligence Baitullah’s whereabouts the day of Bhutto’s assassination, but failed to mount a raid to capture or kill him.
The government negotiated a treaty with Baitullah in March 2006 that essentially ceded the territory to the Taliban. The Taliban and al Qaeda operate at least 29 terror camps in South and neighboring North Waziristan alone.
Baitullah’s Taliban beat back a limited military offensive late last summer and kidnapped over 300 Pakistani soldiers during clashes. He has also been implicated in a series of bombings throughout Pakistan in 2007, and he threatened to assassinate Bhutto upon her return in October.
See The Fall of Northwestern Pakistan: An Online History for more information on the rise of the Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan.