Pakistan Security Brief
The Pakistani Military’s offensive in South Waziristan continues into its tenth day after forces capture the TTP stronghold of Kotkai; IDP numbers continue to swell; a suspected drone strike narrowly misses TTP Bajaur commander; Baloch Education Minister is assassinated by separatists; a Pakistani military helicopter went down in Bajaur; Pakistani military checkpoints in Bajaur and Hangu are ambushed by militants.
- The Pakistani army continued its push into Pakistani Taliban-controlled areas of South Waziristan as the offensive moves into its tenth day. Early on Saturday Pakistani forces finally seized the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) stronghold of Kotkai after a siege lasting six days. The town is said to be the birthplace of TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud and host TTP commander Qari Hussain’s suicide-bomber academy. Troops advanced north of their positions in Sharwangi and captured the town of Chalwashti on their way to the TTP stronghold of Kaniguram, capturing strategic heights along the way. More limited gains were made in the north near Razmak. Internally displaced people (IDPs) continued to show up at registration centers in Tank and Dera Ismail Khan districts as the numbers of IDPs swell to over 200,000 (read more on the South Waziristan operation).
- An explosion, rumored to have been caused by a U.S. drone strike in Bajaur agency on Saturday, killed over thirty people. The strike reportedly targeted TTP-Bajaur commander Maulvi Faqir Muhammad but missed its mark by a matter of minutes. The Pakistani military, however, denies that any such strike took place, claiming the explosion was caused by the accidental detonation of bomb materiel being loaded into a truck at a Taliban hideout. Official sources have gone to great lengths to deny U.S. involvement in its recent offensive in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
- The Balochistan Education Minister, Shafiq Ahmed Khan, was assassinated in Quetta on Sunday. The Balochistan Liberation United Front (BLUF), previously responsible for the kidnapping of a UNHCR official, claimed responsibility for the attack. Mr. Khan is the second provincial minister to be assassinated by Baloch separatists in as many months.
- An Mi-17 Pakistani military helicopter crashed in Bajaur Agency on Saturday, killing between three and six soldiers. While the military claims the helicopter came down due to a technical fault, anonymous officials report the transport helicopter was felled by hostile fire.
- An ambush on a Pakistani military checkpost in Bajaur Agency resulted in the deaths of four soldiers and six militants on Monday. Reportedly twenty militants attacked the post with rockets and small arms and killed a number of soldiers before the military repulsed the attack. Elsewhere, in Hangu district, a Pakistani military outpost was also attacked by a handful of TTP militants resulting in the deaths of one soldier and close to twenty militants. The attacks are seen as attempts by the militants to divert the Pakistani military’s attention away from the offensive in South Waziristan Agency and to strain the military’s resources in order to take some of the pressure off their Waziristan compatriots.