Taliban declare guerrilla war in South Waziristan

MIRAMSHAH: The Taliban hit back Wednesday at claims that towns in their mountain bastion have fallen to Pakistan army control, vowing their guerrilla war would defeat troops waging a major assault.

‘We have not been defeated. We have voluntarily withdrawn into the mountains under a strategy that will trap the Pakistan army in the area,’ Taliban spokesman Azam Tariq told journalists taken blindfold to a mountain top.

Pakistan’s main umbrella Taliban faction, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) arranged a news conference for journalists from the tribal belt a day after the military flew correspondents into South Waziristan to visit the battlefield.

An AFP reporter, who was among those taken to the mountain top, said the bearded Tariq sat on the open ground, without a rug or chairs.

Tariq, who is spokesman for TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud, was flanked by two armed bodyguards. This was his first direct interaction with journalists since the military mounted the Waziristan offensive.

Journalists from North Waziristan were driven to the border with South Waziristan in broad daylight where they were blindfolded and transferred into waiting vehicles, said the AFP reporter.

They were then taken several kilometres into the rugged terrain where troops backed by fighter aircraft and attack helicopters were engaged in their heaviest to date anti-Taliban offensive.

Gunfire could be heard from the mountains while one military helicopter was also seen flying in the area.

‘Look —the firing is in Nawazkot of Makin town. But this is a futile exercise, the army will never succeed in seizing control of the area,’ Tariq said pointing to the helicopter.

‘The army claims they have captured most of the towns. This is wrong, in fact we have vacated old forts which we captured from them in previous clashes. The troops are trapped there and we will retake the area,’ he added.

The Taliban spokesman on Wednesday denied reports from tribesmen that the fighters had lost the sympathies of the local Mehsud tribe and spurned army claims of heavy Taliban casualties.

‘The Pakistan government was doing this only to appease the Americans,’ he added. But he vowed the Taliban will continue their jihad in Afghanistan until the withdrawal of US forces.

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