The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has regrouped in the tribal agency of South Waziristan. Today, a heavily armed Taliban force estimated at 150 fighters attacked a military post in the town of Makeen and killed eight Pakistani troops. Twelve Taliban fighters were reported killed in the counterattack. From Reuters:
Around 150 militants armed with rockets attacked a security checkpost in Pakistan’s Waziristan on Thursday, killing eight soldiers, intelligence officials said, as tensions rise in the border region. Twelve militants were killed in retaliatory firing by security forces.
The attack came on the heels of stepped-up missile strikes by U.S. drone aircraft in the tribal region along the Afghan border regarded as a hub of militants from around the world.
“The militants were carrying rockets and heavy weapons and attacked the checkpost shortly after midnight,” an intelligence official in the region told Reuters.
“Eight soldiers were killed and twelve were wounded,” he added. Security forces hit back at the militants, killing at least 12 of them and wounding five, another official said.
Makeen was once a stronghold of Hakeemullah Mehsud, the overall leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. This area is not under the control of Mullah Nazir, who has been the focus of five Predator airstrikes this month. Hakeemullah and Nazir are rivals of sorts (although Nazir has allowed Hakeemullah’s forces to shelter in his tribal areas after the Pakistani Army launched an offensive against the Mehsuds in October 2009).
The Pakistani military has claimed it defeated Hakeemullah’s forces, but the group preserved the bulk of its fighting forces and all of its leaders by conducting a tactical withdrawal and leaving a rearguard force behind to battle the government troops. Meanwhile, the Pakistani military fought a halfhearted campaign. The military “largely stayed close to the roads and did not engage against those [Pakistani Taliban] militants who returned after fleeing into North Waziristan,” according to a US government report that was leaked in October 2010.
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