ISLAMABAD: The Army scored the first major success of the operation in South Waziristan on Saturday when it captured Kotkai, the hometown of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Hakimullah Mehsud and his deputy, Qari Hussain.
Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira and military spokesman Maj-Gen Athar Abbas told a joint briefing here that Operation Rah-i-Nijat was progressing well and the security forces had been achieving their targets ahead of the timeline.
According to the minister, the TTP network in Kotkai stood dismantled and the ‘terrorists are on the run’.
He, however, interjected a sombre note: terrorists may vent their frustration on ‘soft targets’ like schools, places of worship and shopping centres.
‘They have caused a great damage in the past and more is possible, but they have failed to terrorise the people who are with the government and the armed forces to stamp out terrorism,’ Mr kaira said.
He said the intelligence network had been strengthened to pre-empt acts of terror.
Referring to recent suicide bombings over the past 20 days, he said it betrayed the desperation of the desperadoes.
Military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas described the capture of Kotkai as a big success, pointing out that Jandola, Kotkai and Sararogha were the centres of gravity.
He said 21 terrorists have been killed in South Waziristan on Friday and Saturday while three security personnel laid down their lives and another eight sustained injuries.
About Kotkai, he said the place was a militant stronghold where most of the houses stood converted into bunkers. The town also has a training camp run by Qari Hussain for suicide bombers.
Security forces are in the process of clearing the built-up area of IEDs, mines and booby traps.
‘Troops are in complete control of Shishwam and are in the process of securing surrounding heights.’
Citing local sources, he said 80-90 militants, including Uzbeks, were killed and another around 150 in Spinkai-Kund Sector on October 17 and 18.
On Shakai-Kaniguram Axis, he said after securing Chalwastai security forces were in the process of securing important height of Tarkona Narai.
This feature has number of terraces with fortified positions and is an important Y Junction on the road leading to Kaniguram and Sar Wakai. Stiff resistance is being put up by terrorists. During search and clearance operation at Khaisura village, security forces recovered a number of rifles and 1 x 14.5 mm gun from a compound.
On main Axis route 1 ammunition laden vehicle has been destroyed alongwith with 3 terrorists killed.
Answering a question, General Athar Abbas said the Army had no accord with terrorists in Waziristan. ‘The accord in South Waziristan with Ahmadzai tribe and in North Waziristan with Waziri tribe is between the Government and the tribal elders. It is for the tribal leaders to honour the accord with the Government’, he remarked.
Responding to another question, he said ‘We would not like to see any kind of support or interference including drone attacks from outside during the ongoing operation. We are doing it at our own and will do it at our own’, he remarked.
He, however, downplayed the report about a drone attack in Damadola on Saturday, saying that ‘Our information suggests that explosive material being loaded at a vehicle blew up’.
Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira also replied to the question, saying there was no understanding between Pakistan and the United States for drone attacks. ‘We have always said these predator strikes are counterproductive.’
Sailab Mehsud adds from Laddah, South Waziristan: At least 10 militants were killed and eight others wounded as fierce clashes continued in different parts of South Waziristan tribal region on Friday night and Saturday. Four of the wounded Taliban were arrested.
Six security personnel were also killed, while eight were injured during the fighting.
Sources said that four militants were killed in Sheeshwam and six in the Sherawangi areas of Kotkai. Four of the eight wounded militants were captured in Sheeshwam, they said.
The sources said that three soldiers were killed in Sheeshwam and three in the Sherawangi area of Kotkai.
They said security forces continued their advance and moved on from Sherawangi to Badar Salweshtai area.
The army, backed by artillery and helicopter gunships, has also begun advance on Razmak, Shakai, Tiarza and Badar Salweshtai.
Residents said that several houses were hit during shelling.
Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan Fidaeen wing’s commander Qari Hussain, who is also a spokesperson for TTP chief Hakeemullah Mehsud, claimed Taliban had found five beheaded bodies of soldiers in the Tor Ghundai area of Kotkai.
He said the beheaded soldiers, a major among them, had been killed four days ago. The bodies were retrieved by security forces, he added.