Monday, October 19, 2009

Pakistan fights back -- military launches massive attack on insurgents

News from Pakistan that government forces had captured the South Waziristan village of Kotkai from insurgents linked to the Taliban and al-Qaida was a welcome change from the usual depressing news coming from the nuclear-armed country and its troubled next-door neighbor, Afghanistan. At least four soldiers were killed in Pakistan's massive attack against militants operating in the country's south, along its long border with Afghanistan, according to Cable News Network (CNN). The attack comes as suicide attacks by terrorists against Pakistani government and security installations have been soaring, forcing tens of thousands of civilians to flee. On Friday, a car bomb killed 13 people, mostly civilians, at a police station in Peshawar, a northern city near Islamabad, the nation's capital. Officials said there are as many as 15,000 insurgents in South Waziristan, the result of years of neglect, and the government has committed nearly 30,000 troops to battle them, CNN said. Pakistan's democratically elected government has been slow to fully engage the militants, observers say, but now appears committed to the fight. The wave of bombings has increased international pressure on the government in Islamabad, headed by President Asif Ali Zardari, the widow of Benazir Bhutto, because of fears over the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons arsenal. Bhutto, the daughter of former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, founder of the Pakistan People's Party, became the first female prime minister of a Muslim nation in 1988. She was a leader in exile of the battle against former President Pervez Musharraf, the military commander who seized power in a 1999 coup and held it for eight years. Bhutto returned from exile in 2007 but was assassinated during the campaign for the 2008 election. Zardari took over party leadership after her death and outpolled Musharraf, who voluntarily gave up power. In Washington, a spokesman for U.S. President Barack Obama said the wave of attacks was evidence that Pakistani militants "threaten both Pakistan and the United States," CNN said. Obama recently approved an additional $7.5 billion in assistance to Pakistan over the next five years.

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