LANDI KOTAL: Taliban on Monday laid siege to Bagh-Maidan in Tirah valley, where headquarters of Ansaarul Islam (AI) militant group are located, after taking control of some strategic heights around the area. According to sources, the heights of Haidar Kandaw, Narhaw, Ziyarath Sar, Bucha and Angori fell to Taliban after they launched a major offensive. The offensive also brought Bar Qambar Khel area under the control of Taliban. It is being described as a major achievement for them — similar in significance to expulsion of the Kukikhel tribe from their areas in May last year. Sources said Taliban were locked in a fierce gunbattle with Ansaar volunteers to capture Kala Voch, the last major base of AI which leads to Malikdinkhel area. The sources said the fall of Bagh-Maidan to Taliban was a matter of time now as they had captured the five heights overlooking the plains of Maidan from three sides. Dawn.
KALAYA: Thirteen militants were killed and 16 injured when military planes attacked their hideouts in Mamozai area of Orakzai tribal agency on Monday. Sources said the planes bombed the hideouts in Arghanjo and Mir Qalamkhel villages in Mamozai, considered to be a stronghold of Taliban. The hour-long bombing destroyed six shelters of militants and an explosives-laden vehicle. Militants cordoned off the area after the attack. According to a witness, they retrieved 13 bodies and 16 injured from the rubble and took the injured to a private hospital in Orakzai. But, a spokesman of Orakzai chapter of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed that no militant had been killed in the bombing. Dawn, The Nation.
PESHAWAR: A police post was damaged in a blast on the outskirts of provincial metropolis on Monday evening. An official said that policemen remained unhurt in the blast, occurred on Ring Road in the limits of Sarband police station. He said that an improvised explosive device was planted beside the wall of the post that went off at about 7pm. However, Sarband SHO Khizar Hayat Khan, when contacted, avoided sharing information with media and said that nature of the blast could not be ascertained. Police also recovered explosives and heavy weapons and took two persons into custody during a raid on a godown near Jamil Chowk on Ring Road. The weapons include 80 hand grenades, 116 kilograms of explosives, 40 kilograms ball bearings and 25 mortar shells. Dawn.
LAHORE: US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson has promised US will be the main sponsor of the Bhasha Dam but on political issues he said corruption, governance and transparency would be best addressed through the democratic process. He asked the people of Pakistan to avail the opportunity offered by elections by electing honest representatives. He was talking to the media at the Lahore Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) launch on Monday. The OSAC would represent the interest of American businesses in Pakistan. He negated the impression that the economy of Pakistan has not benefitted from the Kerry Lugar bill. “This bill is reaching maturity but many important health and energy projects have been financed through this special assistance”, he said adding that a number of these projects would mature in near future. The News.
DIR: The death toll of children from pneumonia and measles in Kohistan area of Upper Dir district increased from 25 to 47 as a team of health officials returned from the remote area on Monday. Executive District Officer (EDO Health) Dr Abdul Wakeel confirmed 47 deaths from the outbreaks that hit Thal, Kumrat and Lamoti areas of Dir Kohistan. He said the most of the areas were inaccessible due to snowfall. He feared the deaths could be more than what they had recorded. “We faced problems in ascertaining the exact number of the deaths caused by post-measles pneumonia due to snow that has covered the mountainous areas,” he said. The disease could have been caused by severe cold weather in the area that is situated 105 kilometres away from Dir town, the district headquarters. He said the area had also been affected by measles. The Health Department official said medical teams had been working in the area and were trying to control the situation. He said more than 1,500 children were being vaccinated against pneumonia and measles. The News, Dawn.
ISLAMABAD: Putting aside years of mistrust, the Afghan government indicated on Monday its willingness to consider Pakistan’s longstanding offer of training its armed forces. This sense was conveyed during Afghan defence delegation’s meeting with Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani at the military headquarters. The Afghan delegation led by Defence Minister Gen Bismillah Khan Muhammadi, which is on a five-day visit to Pakistan, included Major General Afzal Aman, Director General of Military Operations; Major General Abdul Manan Farahi, Director General Military Intelligence and Investigation; Major General Payanda Mohammad Nazim, Inspector General of Training; and Major General Aminullah Karim, Commandant of National Defence College, Afghanistan. The rare visit of the high-level Afghan defence delegation denoted a paradigm shift in Afghanistan’s perceptions about Pakistan. Because of years of disinformation, Afghan authorities had always sceptically looked towards Pakistan believing that the former ally of Taliban was opposed to the current set-up and was backing Taliban insurgency. Dawn.
WASHINGTON: Pakistani Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah is top on a list of potential targets for US drones, The Washington Post reported on Monday, quoting official sources. “Fazlullah is a priority — stalked by spies on the ground and squarely in the sights of armed drones,” a senior US Special Operations official told the Post. “He is very high on the leader board. We have assets focused on killing him.” The US media reported earlier this month that the Obama administration was preparing new guidelines for attacking suspected terrorists but would continue to give the CIA a free hand in targeting terrorists inside Fata. The report has irked Pakistan, which has repeatedly asked the US administration to reconsider its policy of using drones for attacking terrorists inside Fata. While Pakistanis agree with the US claim that the drones have killed many top terrorists, they complain that a large number of civilians have also been killed. Dawn.
NAWAF KHAN, SHARAFAT ALI CHAUDHARY