Thursday, May 7, 2009

Pakistan to scrap peace deal, launch offensive, source says

The following is from CNN:

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- The Pakistani government plans to scrap a tenuous peace deal with Taliban militants and launch an even more aggressive operation against them in northwestern Pakistan, a Pakistani military official said Thursday.

The military plans to begin a major offensive Thursday evening in Swat, the site of a faltering peace deal between the Pakistani military and the Taliban.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani will announce the end of the peace deal and the military offensive Thursday night, the official said.

Between 12,000 and 15,000 Pakistani troops already are in Swat, according to the official. The official tells CNN more troops will be deployed in the Swat, Dir and Buner districts to fight the militants.

Pakistani fighter jets and helicopters pounded Taliban positions in the country's Swat Valley Thursday as the military continued its offensive against Taliban militants, the government said.

The bombing runs hit Taliban training and communications centers in Gath Peochar. Other operations hit an area of Swat called Qambar, where a "notorious militant commander named Shah Duran operates," said Maj. Naser Khan with the Pakistani military's Inter-Services Public Relations agency in Swat.

In other fighting, a son of a pro-Taliban cleric who negotiated the controversial peace deal in Swat Valley was killed Thursday morning, Pakistani and Taliban officials confirmed.

Kafayatullah, the son of Islamist fundamentalist leader Sufi Muhammed, died when mortar shells from Pakistani security forces hit a home in the Lower Dir district of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province, said Mehmood Khan, a Taliban commander, and a Pakistani intelligence official who asked not to be identified.

The attack took place in the Maiden area.

Kafayatullah was not a militant and not part of the Taliban movement, both sources said.

Muhammed, his father, signed the peace agreement with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in April that allowed the Taliban to implement Islamic law, or sharia, in the region in exchange for an end to fighting.

Under the Taliban's strict interpretation of sharia law, women should not even be seen in public without their husbands or fathers.

The government began a military offensive in late April after Taliban militants moved into the Buner district and refused to disarm, in violation of the agreement.

The military accused the Taliban of putting civilians in harm's way.

"Every possible effort is made to prevent casualties of any innocent civilian but... the Taliban tries to put hurdles in their way and, when military fires... , there may be some civilian casualties... in the crossfire," Khan said.

On Wednesday, U.S. President Barack Obama said the leaders of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States were "three sovereign nations joined by a common goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat" al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Obama, in remarks delivered with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari at the White House, said the security of the three nations was linked.

Al Qaeda and its allies are responsible for killing innocent civilians and challenging the democratically elected governments in the nations, Obama said. The U.S. has made a "lasting commitment [that it] will not waiver" in efforts to defeat extremists and support the Afghan and Pakistani governments, he added.

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