A large Taliban force overran a Frontier Corps checkpoint in Pakistan’s northwest, killing 16 security personnel during a protracted battle.
A heavily armed Taliban force, estimated at more than 300 fighters, assaulted an outpost in Kharakhai in the district of Lower Dir in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa late last night, sparking a 12-hour-long battle. The outpost was manned by about 30 members from the paramilitary Frontier Corps, the Frontier Levies, and border policemen.
The Taliban overran the outpost, killing 16 Pakistani security personnel. Among those killed were nine Frontier Corps troops, three Frontier Levies, and two border policemen. Two Frontier Corps officers were also killed as the Taliban ambushed a relief force sent to help the beleaguered outpost. The Taliban are also reported to have beheaded five of the security personnel who were killed.
Pakistani forces reportedly recaptured the outpost after heavy fighting and are said to be pursuing the Taliban force.
The Taliban reportedly launched the attack from across the border in the Afghan province of Kunar, where the Taliban and al Qaeda have established safe havens after US forces withdrew from remote valleys. Some Pakistani officials claimed the Taliban force evaded operations in Pakistan’s tribal agency of Mohmand, entered Afghanistan, and then crossed back into Dir with the help of Afghan Army personnel.
Two major Taliban groups operate in the region, one commanded by Qari Zai Rahman, and another by Mullah Fazlullah.
Qari Zai Rahman is the dual-hatted Taliban and al Qaeda leader who operates in Pakistan’s tribal agencies of Bajaur and Mohmand, as well as in Kunar and neighboring Nuristan province in Afghanistan. ISAF and Afghan forces have been hunting Rahman for more than a year.
Mullah Fazlullah commands the Taliban forces in the district of Swat, which borders Dir to the east. Fazlullah’s forces openly ruled Swat and neighboring districts from 2007 until April 2009, when the Pakistani military launched an operation to eject the Taliban. Fazlullah and most of his top leaders fighters evaded the operation and have sheltered along the Afghan-Pakistani border.
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