Theodore's World: 300,000 Flee As Jihadis Attacked

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August 18, 2008

300,000 Flee As Jihadis Attacked

300,000 flee as jihadis attacked

The Australian

A human tide of more than 300,000 civilians has fled the al-Qa'ida badlands, amid indications that the fighting there has reached unprecedented levels, with the Pakistani army using massive firepower to attack jihadi militant strongholds.

Helicopter gunships, fixed-wing strike aircraft, tanks and heavy artillery have been used in the onslaught that followed the visit last month by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to Washington, where he was berated for Pakistan's failure to wipe out the militants.

The offensive runs counter to perceptions that Pakistan's new civilian Government is "soft" on Islamic extremism.

This will reassure Washington, whose ally in the war in terror for the past nine years, President Pervez Musharraf, was given by the Coalition Government until midnight last night (4am today AEST) to resign or face impeachment proceedings beginning tonight in the National Assembly.

Pakistani television showed thousands of civilians caught in the crossfire streaming out of the Bajaur, Mohmand and Kurrum agencies during the fighting estimated to have killed more than 500 militants. Tens of thousands of people are camping on the perimeter of Peshawar, the capital of the North West Frontier Province, and some have reached Rawalpindi, the garrison city adjoining Islamabad.

New security tsar Rehman Malik, the architect of the get-tough policy against the militants who have over-run the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, said at least 220,000 civilians had been displaced. But welfare agencies said the figure was probably well in excess of 300,000.

An NWFP government official appealing for federal assistance said yesterday: "There are hundreds of thousands of people waiting for help and we don't have the wherewithal to deal with the situation."

In a speech to the National Assembly on Saturday, Mr Gilani declared the Government was determined to re-establish control in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. "We will establish the writ of the Government at all costs (as) a parallel government cannot be tolerated," he said.

The offensive, launched without fanfare to avoid conveying the notion it was done at the insistence of Washington, is targeting primarily Bajaur, slated as the most likely hiding place of Osama bin Laden. Fierce fighting is also under way in areas of the NWFP where many of Pakistan's nuclear weapons are believed to be based.

Dr Malik, who accompanied Mr Gilani to Washington, estimated yesterday that a force of more than 3000 well-armed and highly trained al-Qa'ida militants were operating in Bajaur.

"We will wipe them out," Dr Malik said. "We will not surrender before them."

Fighting in the NWFP's strategic Swat Valley, 250km north of Islamabad, is at unprecedented levels.

Relations between Washington and the new administration in Islamabad had been tense, particularly over the case of accused terrorist Aafia Siddiqui.

The Pakistani neuroscientist appeared in a New York court this month after disappearing with her three children in Karachi five years ago. US officials say Ms Siddiqui, 36, is a significant al-Qa'ida figure. Human rights workers argue she was abducted in a joint Pakistani-US operation under the Musharraf regime.

The Pakistani parliament's foreign affairs committee vowed on Saturday to visit Ms Siddiqui in her New York cell, as well as Pakistanis held at Guantanamo Bay.

Talks between Mr Musharraf's aides and the coalition Government, which set today's deadline, aimed at securing him indemnity from prosecution have been hampered by the opposition of Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister deposed by Mr Musharraf in a coup. Saudi Arabia, the US and UK have sent envoys to resolve the crisis.

Wild Thing's comment........

Pakistani television showed thousands of civilians caught in the crossfire streaming out of the Bajaur, Mohmand and Kurrum agencies during the fighting estimated to have killed more than 500 militants.

Why didn't they do this 7 years ago??

I heard their top military leader is very close to us. I hope so since we probably have some people in there or very close. Prayers up again for our military beyond the frontline.

Posted by Wild Thing at August 18, 2008 07:55 PM


Inbreeding WT, Pervez Musharraf is 'family' he's protected them for 7 years through halfhearted and halfassed measures. Being a nuclear power Pakistan can't afford to let the radicals get hold of that. Yet I don't hold out much hope for a real change for the reduction of the butchery. Death cultists!!!

Posted by: Jack at August 18, 2008 10:31 PM

Pakistan is one of the most confusing situations in the world right now. There are so many factions it is difficult to see which way Pakistan will go. I doubt very seriously that a coalition government will survive, too many radicals.

Posted by: TomR at August 19, 2008 10:06 AM

Jack, yes he sure has , I really think he has protected them. Mabe not all the way, he had to show good face to the USA but he sure could have done a whole lot more to go after them.

Posted by: Wild Thing at August 19, 2008 08:15 PM

Tom, I think so too, there are just so many groups there, and they probably feed off each other too with their hate and information.

Posted by: Wild Thing at August 19, 2008 08:17 PM