Saturday, June 6, 2009


June 07, 2009

ISPR says Army to stay in troubled areas for indefinite period

Fazlullah targeted thrice

Success incomplete without elimination of top leadership

By Muhammad Anis

ISLAMABAD: Two close aides of Tehrik Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) chief Maulana Sufi Muhammad were killed in Sakhakot on Saturday when they were travelling in the custody of security forces.“A prisoners’ van was carrying Naib Amir of the TNSM Maulana Muhammad Alam and spokesman Amir Izzat from Malakand to Peshawar when an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded,” military spokesman and DG ISPR Major General Athar Abbas told newsmen at a media briefing here on Saturday.

He said the van was attacked at 5.10am with an improvised explosive device (IED) in Sakhakot followed by intense firing by the terrorists, killing the TNSM leaders and a junior commissioned officer while leaving five security personnel injured.

It may be mentioned that the TNSM leaders had been arrested during a raid in Amandara, Malakand, on Thursday.To a question about appropriate security arrangements for the convoy, he said security forces were operating in a battle zone where such attacks were an everyday happening. “I cannot say if the TNSM leaders were targeted,” he said.

To another question about the possibility of a military or judicial inquiry into the incident to clear any doubt, he said a decision to this effect could be taken by the competent authority.He said the third leader of the TNSM, Maulana Wahab, was still in the custody of security forces.

He said TNSM chief Maulana Sufi Muhammad had neither been arrested nor was under the custody of security forces.

The Army, he said, would stay in Swat and adjoining areas for an indefinite period. “The Army would stay in the area till a sense of security among the people is revived, a credible defence system by the law enforcement agencies, including police, is put in place and the possibility of the terrorists hiding in mountains coming back to launch a second phase of insurgency is obviated,” General Athar Abbas said, adding: “This would not take less than a year.”

He said the proposal to establish a cantonment in the area was also on the table, but a final decision was to be taken by the government.About the settlement of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) being discussed by the civil and military leadership, he said the military operation only brings temporary stability and arrangements were necessary for permanent stability, including revival of the civic amenities before the return of the IDPs.

He said the resettlement plan was being worked out, envisaging enhancement of capacity of the law-enforcement agencies and increasing the strength of the police. “On the heels of the military operation, we would like an administrative follow-up. It would need work on a war-footing,” he remarked.

General Athar Abbas said 100 per cent success in unconventional wars could not be achieved in a short spell of time. He pointed out that the valley could not be completely sealed and the miscreants currently hiding may regroup and resume terrorist activities.

Answering a question, he said so far no decision had been taken to launch an operation in South Waziristan. He, however, said the Army would go there if the government so decided.He said the success would be incomplete without eliminating the top leadership of the militants. He said Swat Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah had been targeted thrice by security forces. He, however, said no authentic information on his condition was available.

Replying to a question, he said he had not seen the press conference addressed by Baitullah Mehsud’s spokesman, threatening terrorist attacks on small towns across the country. He, however, said he would call it an intelligence failure if he spoke at a press conference with a lot of mikes around him.

He said around 40 would-be suicide bombers had so far been killed and apprehended in and outside the operation area. Around 1,305 terrorists had been killed since the launch of the operation Rah-e-Rast while 120, including foreign nationals, had been apprehended, he added. Some 105 security personnel had so far laid down their lives while 306 were injured, many of them seriously, he added.

Giving an update on the operation, he said 17 terrorists had been killed during the last 24 hours while four soldiers laid down their lives. He said security forces successfully cleared Kuza Bandai, Bara Bandai and Gora Ghat, establishing two check-posts in Kuza Bandai and one in Gora Ghat. Security forces killed 17 terrorists and recovered a huge cache of arms and ammunition during a search and destroy operation in Sarsenai area. One soldier was also killed.

Asked if the recent terrorist attack in Lahore had a link to the ongoing operation and whether or not any foreign hand was involved, he said an inquiry into the incident was under way and it would be inappropriate to offer any comment at this stage.In Puran-Chakesar valley, security forces have established a link up to Tawa and the area around Aloch. Besides, terrorists fired rockets and mortars at the security forces’ check-post in Khwazakhela from Baidara, killing two soldiers and injuring one.

APP adds: General Athar Abbas said according to estimates, 3-4 per cent of the terrorists, who were either killed or apprehended, were foreign nationals like Arabs, Central Asians or Afghans.

He told a questioner that the top leadership of terrorists had been targeted time and again and unconfirmed reports of killing of two high-value targets were also received. “We cannot confirm the reports of killing of top leaders till the time we get material information.”He said a top terrorist leader was targeted thrice but he might have fled after sustaining injuries. However, he added that the technology constraint was the major reason for his escape. “We don’t have drone technology which keeps chasing the target — we do lack that technology,” he said.“We are carrying out this operation with indigenous resources and no foreign power had been assisting us in this unconventional type of battle,” he said.

Answering a question, he said that the PAF fighters were only used on as and when required basis to soften the targets by engaging ammunition dumps and logistic camps of the terrorists through laser guided technology.

As far as relief and support programme for the IDPs is concerned, he said, ration of four truckloads was distributed among persons of newly established camp at the Charsadda Sugar Mills. Around 600 families were provided food items in Bara Banda, Azakhel, Manki Sharif and Peshawar. Army troops also distributed seven truckloads ration in union councils Katlang, Roria Sare Balol, Tora, Patbaba and Achakzai.

Principal Information Officer Shabbir Anwar and a representative of the Special Support Group, Lt Col Wasim, were also present at the briefing.

Our Peshawar Bureau adds: Namaz-e-Janaza of the two leaders was offered at Amandara in Batkhela in which a large number of people participated. Tight security was put in place during the Namaz-e-Janaza to stave off any untoward incident.“About 60 Army soldiers besides Levies personnel had taken over the area,” a local told The News. The coffins of Alam and Izzat were not allowed to be taken to their homes.

An activist claimed the coffins were empty and insisted to open them to see the bodies. The coffin of Alam was opened, but the body was badly mutilated and he immediately closed it.

The activists of the TNSM were angry over the killing of the two senior leaders.After the killing of Kifayatullah, the eldest son of Sufi Muhammad, Maulana Alam and Izzat, two close aides, Sufi Muhammad has gone underground.

Amir Izzat Khan, the TNSM spokesman, had reportedly given up his job as a teacher in the Government Middle School in Swat’s Sherpalam village last year to work full time for his organisation.Though he had formally joined Maulana Sufi Mohammad’s TNSM in 1993, he was made its spokesman last year when the organisation set up a peace camp in Timergara, headquarters of Lower Dir, to press the acceptance of its demand of enforcement of Shariah in the Malakand Division.

Maulana Muhammad Alam, the 46-year-old deputy leader of TNSM, belonged to Shangla district. He was born in Shahpur village and had received his early education in a local Madrassa.A long-time associate of Maulana Sufi Mohammad, he joined the TNSM in 1993. He was first made head of TNSM in the Malakand Division, then the divisional chief and finally the central deputy leader.NEWS 7-6-09

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