Pakistan bombs Taliban after capturing key town

The military claims to have killed more than 160 militants since the offensive began a week ago, but it's encountering fierce resistance from the Taliban.

Pakistani soldiers patrolled Naurang near Bannu, Pakistan on Sunday. Pakistan's 9-day-old offensive in the Taliban and Al Qaeda stronghold of South Waziristan is considered its most critical test yet in the campaign to stop the spread of violent extremism in the nuclear-armed country.

A daily summary of global reports on security issues.

Pakistan pressed on in its week-old offensive against the Taliban in South Waziristan Sunday, bombing militant bases and advancing ground troops after recapturing the hometown of the Pakistani Taliban's leader Saturday.

Continuing a wave of attacks against Pakistani military, police, and civilian targets, a suicide bomber killed a police officer early Sunday after police stopped his car.

Reuters reports that Pakistani jets bombed Taliban bases in the villages of Sam, Badr, and Ladha on Sunday, destroying some of the bases, according to an intelligence official. Pakistani troops encountered fierce resistance from the Taliban while fighting to control Tarkona Narai, a strategic crossroads in South Waziristan, reports The Washington Post,

The military claims to have killed more than 160 militants since the offensive began, while about two dozen troops have died, though the numbers are impossible to verify, reports Dawn, a Pakistani English-language daily.

Nearly 30,000 troops launched a three-pronged attack on the Taliban stronghold in the semi-autonomous tribal region Oct. 17 in the government's attempt to disrupt the militant group and assert control over the region.

The announcement Saturday that the Army had finally captured Kotkai, the home of Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud and Qari Hussein, who is known for training suicide bombers, was the first major success of the offensive. But as the Post reports, it did not come easily.

[T]he battle for control of Kotkai […] underscored the difficulty of the Army's mission. Insurgents pushed back Pakistani troops who first took the town early on in the week-old mission, and the recapture Saturday followed hours of what the Army described as "intense" pre-dawn clashes.

The Dawn reports that many of the houses in Kotkai had been turned into bunkers by the militants, who had also run a training camp for suicide bombers in the village. Troops advancing beyond the town after capturing it clashed with Taliban fighters, reportedly killing 15 of them, according to Reuters.

The militants based in the tribal areas launched a wave of deadly attacks on police, military, and civilian targets before the offensive started, and have continued to strike back as the military advances in South Waziristan. The bombings have killed nearly 200 people this month, reports Agence France-Presse.

In the latest attack, a suicide bomber blew up his car on a major highway in Pakistan Sunday, killing the police officer who had stopped him, reports AFP. On Oct. 20, militants detonated two bombs at the Islamic International University in Islamabad, killing eight people. An Army official was gunned down in Islamabad Thursday, and at least 23 people died and 40 were wounded in three different militant bombings across Pakistan on Friday.

The bombings are likely aimed at least in part in disrupting public support for the offensive. One group Pakistan had hoped would support its operation – civilian members of the Mehsud tribe in South Waziristan – appears to be unconvinced, reports The Daily Telegraph.

The Army's offensive has displaced more than 100,000 Pakistani civilians, as The Christian Science Monitor reported last week. Many have expressed anger toward the military for civilian casualties, and against the government for a failure to provide aid.

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