Pakistan Cracking Down on Terror
Attackers set military vehicles ablaze and terrified townspeople streamed out of a remote tribal village Wednesday, a day after one of the bloodiest clashes in Pakistan’s fierce crackdown on al-Qaida and Taliban fugitives.
Mosque loudspeakers blared a warning from authorities that residents must leave the besieged village of Kaloosha by 3 p.m. because of the continuing violence. Many appeared to be heeding the call.
One villager who fled Kaloosha early Wednesday said hundreds of people from about 60 families had left the village of 6,000 people in an exodus that began late Tuesday.
“People are scared. People are worried,” Eid Gul said after arriving in Wana, the main town in the tribal South Waziristan region, six miles east of Kaloosha.
The death toll from Tuesday’s raid on a mud-brick compound in Kaloosha rose to 39 as some troops involved in the operation died of their injuries, a military spokesman said. Suspected terrorists and the tribesmen accused of harboring them fired on troops from the compound and from nearby hills.
Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan said that 15 paramilitary soldiers had died in the operation in South Waziristan — up from the nine reported earlier. At least 24 suspects — including some foreigners presumed to be members of al-Qaida — also were killed.
The raid began a day after Pakistan’s President Gen. Pervez Musharraf promised to rid the territory of foreign terrorists. It also coincided with a visit to the region by Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was visiting Afghanistan on Wednesday, then Pakistan — a key U.S. ally in its war on terrorism.
There was no indication that any senior al-Qaida or Taliban leaders were killed, but the bodies had not yet been identified.
The Pakistani military has conducted a series of sweeps in the tribal regions, where it has deployed some 70,000 forces. Musharraf vowed on Monday to rid the areas of suspected terrorists, and acknowledged for the first time that 500-600 foreigners were sheltering in the region.
The operation followed an announcement over the weekend that American forces had launched another operation on the Afghan side of the border to capture fugitives, including al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar.