Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Taliban Overrun Military Fort in South Waziristan

The Long War Journal - The Taliban in South Waziristan have overrun a fort manned by the Frontier Corps in the town of Sararogha. During a massed assault, the Taliban launched a coordinated attack on the military post which was manned by 42 paramilitary soldiers of the Frontier Corps. The military claimed seven soldiers were and up to 50 Taliban were killed. Reports indicate 20 paramilitaries may have been captured by the Taliban,

The Pakistani military confirmed the assault. "Around midnight 400 miscreants attacked the Frontier Corps at Sararogha," military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told AFP. "The fort was captured by militants, we are taking stock of the situation.”There are reports of 40 to 50 dead miscreants, while seven personnel embraced martyrdom." Fifteen of the paramilitaries are said to have escaped, but the "exact location of rest of the FC [Frontier Corps] men in the fort," totaling 20, "is not known." An unconfirmed report from Xinhua stated 30 troops were killed and up to 100 were killed during the fighting.

The Taliban conducted a well-planned military operation. Reports indicate a force sized from 400 to 1,000 Taliban fighters, indicating a battalion to brigade-sized assault force. Organizing such a large assault force for a night operation requires planning and training. The Taliban breached the wall of the Sararogha fort using explosives, then rushed through the breech to capture the fort.

The Sararogha region, which abuts the Afghan border, is a stronghold of Baitullah Mehsud. Baitullah's fighters captured a company-sized military convoy in South Waziristan during a complex military operation in early September 2007. The Taliban and al Qaeda operate 29 training camps in North and South Waziristan, and the Taliban have been organizing along the lines of military formations. A senior US intelligence official familiar with the Taliban resurgence in Pakistan who wishes to remain anonymous stated the Taliban have organized militarily at the brigade level, if not higher.

Baitullah Mehsud is the leader of the newly-created Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. Baitullah was appointed leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan after a gathering of local Taliban leaders throughout the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province in mid-December. Pakistani intelligence intercepted a communication where Baitullah took credit for Benazir Bhutto's assassination and stated he was in the town near the Afghan border.

On Jan. 1, 2008, Maulvi Omar, the spokesman for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan said the Taliban would "expand its actions from Waziristan to Kohistan and [the] settled districts" unless military operations were halted in Swat. Baitullah Mehsud has been feuding with pro-al Qaeda and Taliban warlord Mullah Nazir, a rival in South Waziristan.