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Pak army suffers losses in their bid to capture Taliban hub

October 26, 2009 19:31 IST
Pakistani forces fought pitched battles with Taliban fighters in their bid to wrest their hub of Sararogha in South Waziristan killing 34 militants to raise the terrorist death toll to 227, but lost 11 soldiers as insurgents opened new fronts in the lawless region.

Six soldiers were killed in pitched battles as the troops advanced from Kotkai to capture Sararogha and Jandola but had to face heavy resistance from well-entrenched Taliban militants at Ghalai village.

With Monday's heavy losses, Pakistani army casualties climbed upto 30. The troops were supported by attack-helicopters and fighters as the heavy fighting in operation 'Rah-i-Nijat' (Path of Salvation) entered the 10th day.

In the fight to secure Ghalai six soldiers and 10 Taliban militants were killed, a military statesman said. 14 soldiers were also injured in the clashes, the military said. Seven militants were killed and five soldiers injured in fighting in and around Chalwastai village, from where the security forces are also advancing into Taliban-held territory.

After clearing the area around Chalwastai of terrorists, troops launched an operation to remove mines, improvised explosive devices traps.

In a new surprise move, the Taliban fighters armed with assault rifles and rockets stormed two army check-posts in the troubled Bajaur region killing four soldiers.

20 militants attacked Matak post in the Charmang area of Bajaur near the Afghan border killing four soldiers in heavy firing. Two other soldiers were also wounded, officials said.

Troops retaliated killing six Taliban militants and wounding four others. Militants also attacked a check post at Doaba in Hangu district of the North West Frontier Province on Sunday night, killing a soldier and injuring four more.

15 militants were killed in retaliatory firing by the security forces. A Pakistani military helicopter crashed in the same area late on Saturday killing six troops.

Although the military said the chopper crashed due to technical fault, the Taliban chief in Bajaur Maulvi Faqir Mohammed claimed his fighters had shot down the aircraft.

As the fighting intensified the Pakistan Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud threatened to launch more terror strikes across the country if the army did not stop its operations against them. Mehsud claimed that Taliban had not suffered 'any significant losses in Waziristan' but threatened to turn Pakistan into another Iraq if army continues its push.

The army in its war bulletin said troops had captured three strategic heights between Kotkai and the key militant base of Sararogha. An army spokesman said troops had to battle for 16 hours to capture another mountaintop on their advance towards the key Taliban bases. The Pakistani army forces were also advancing towards Ladha, another key Taliban base.

The army has mobilised two divisions or about 28,000 soldiers to take on an estimated 10,000 Taliban militants and foreign fighters in South Waziristan.

Troops also continued search and clearance operations in the northwestern Swat valley, where 12 suspects, including seven Afghans, were captured over the past 24 hours. Authorities also imposed curfew briefly in Shangla area following reports about the presence of a suicide bomber.

Meanwhile, Pakistani educational institutions in many parts of the country reopened on Monday after remaining closed for almost a week in the wake of a deadly suicide attack on a prestigious university though attendance in most schools was reported to be low.

Authorities had closed schools and colleges across Pakistan after two suicide bombers struck the International Islamic University in Islamabad on October 20, killing eight persons, including four female students.

Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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