5 top militants among 1,000 killed in Pakistan | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 27, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, September 27, 2008

5 top militants among 1,000 killed in Pakistan

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Pakistan said yesterday that troops have killed 1,000 Islamist militants in a huge offensive, a day after President Asif Ali Zardari lashed out at the US over a clash on the Afghan border.
Five top al-Qaeda and Taliban commanders were among the dead in a month-long operation in Bajaur district, currently the most troubled of Pakistan's unstable tribal areas close to the porous frontier, a top official said.
In a further sign of the instability gripping Pakistan since the bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad at the weekend, three suicide bombers blew themselves up in a shootout with police in Karachi.
Reporters were flown by helicopter to Khar, the main town in restive Bajaur, for a briefing on the military operation launched in August against Islamist militants who had taken control of most of the region.
"The overall toll is over 1,000 militants," said Tariq Khan, inspector general of the paramilitary Frontier Corps, adding that 27 soldiers had also been killed in the fighting.
"This is a centre of gravity for the militants," Khan told journalists. "If they lose here they lose everything."
Five top militant commanders were among the dead, he said.
He said four of the commanders appeared to be foreigners: Egyptian Abu Saeed Al-Masri; Abu Suleiman, an Arab; an Uzbek commander named Mullah Mansoor; and an Afghan commander called Manaras.
The fifth was a Pakistani commander named only Abdullah, a son of ageing hardline leader Maulvi Faqir Mohammad who is based in Bajaur and has close ties to al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Bajaur, which borders the Afghan province of Kunar, has seen some of the fiercest fighting between Pakistani forces and Islamist militants since former military ruler Pervez Musharraf joined the US-led "war on terror" in 2001.
The operation came in response to international pressure on Pakistan's new civilian government, which ousted Musharraf last month, to prevent Pakistan-based militants from launching attacks in Afghanistan.
But tensions have escalated with Washington since a September 3 ground attack by US forces inside Pakistan, the first of its kind since 2001, left about 15 people dead.
Following an exchange of gunfire between US and Pakistani forces on the frontier on Thursday, new President Zardari told the United Nations that Pakistan would not tolerate violations of its sovereignty, even by its allies.
The incident happened after two US military helicopters came under fire from the Pakistani side, a US military spokesman said, insisting that they had been about a mile and a half inside Afghanistan.

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