SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Militants attacked Peshawar, the NWFP capital, and its vicinity on May 28, 2009, killing eight persons, while over 68 sustained injuries. Two separate blasts occurred in the Qissa Khwani Bazaar: three Policemen were killed and another nine were injured in a suicide attack on a Police vehicle at Sra Khawra on the Kohat Road; and two suspected militants were killed and two others arrested in an encounter between the Police and alleged terrorists who had taken shelter in a building located behind Qissa Khwani Bazaar soon after the two explosions. In addition, a Policeman and two civilians were killed and 13 persons were injured when a suicide attacker exploded an auto-rickshaw near a Police checkpoint in Dera Ismail Khan.
The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on May 28, 2009, claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing-and-gun attack on the provincial headquarters of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in Lahore the previous day. 27 persons were killed and at least 400 sustained injuries in the attack. "We have achieved our target. We were looking for this target for a long time. It was a reaction to the Swat operation," Hakimullah Mehsud, a militant commander and deputy to TTP chief Baitullah Mehsud, told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location. According to a BBC report, Hakimullah threatened similar attacks in other Pakistani cities, declaring "Residents should leave the cities of Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Multan."
Another group calling itself the Tehrik-i-Taliban Punjab also claimed responsibility for the attack. The group reportedly claimed responsibility in a Turkish-language communiqué posted on Turkish militant websites through an organisation called Elif Media on May 27, the SITE Intelligence Group said. SITE cited the group as saying the attack ‘targeted the ‘nest of evil’ in Lahore, and was a ‘humble gift’ to the mujahideen who suffer under the attacks of Pakistani forces in Swat. The claim is yet to be verified and the group's relationship to the Taliban is uncertain.
The Lahore attack came a day after Taliban spokesperson Maulvi Mohammad Omar threatened retaliation across Pakistan if the military operation in Swat was not stopped. Interior Minister Rehman Malik on May 27 blamed the Taliban for the attack, saying it could be retaliation to Operation Rah-i-Raast, the Government’s military operations against the TTP. "It appears to be a fallout of the ongoing military operations in Swat, Dir and other areas of NWFP," Malik said. He added, however, that there would be no let up in the crackdown on these "anti-national elements". "They want to destabilise Pakistan. Threats have been held out by Tehrik-e-Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud," the Interior Minister told reporters in Karachi, "We are in a state of insurgency. There is a war inside the country and there were two options before the Government... either to cave in... or to confront and crush them… We have opted to flush them out."
The attack at the provincial headquarters of the ISI is the third major terrorist attack in Lahore in less than three months, following the March 3 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team and the March 30 attack on the Manawan Police Academy.
Meanwhile, the military said on May 29, 2009, that more than 1,300 Taliban militants and 90 soldiers had died in the operations launched in the Districts of Lower Dir on April 26, Buner on April 28 and Swat on May 8. However, these figures cannot be confirmed independently. Between April 26 and May 29, 212 civilians, 118 Security Force (SF) personnel and 1,483 militants were killed in the NWFP, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal database. Since media access is heavily restricted in NWFP, and there is only fitful release of information by Government agencies and media reportage, the actual figures could be much higher. The ‘militant’ category may, moreover, include a large proportion of civilians, as no credible system of identification appears to be in place.
Within Swat, the troops are reportedly consolidating their positions in Mingora, the largest city in the District, Qambar, Kanju and Kabal areas. Troops have secured several important areas in Mingora, including a crossing [Green Chowk, also known as Khooni (bloody) Chowk] infamous for the beheadings carried out by the Taliban. Operations are also underway in the Nawagai, Nawan Killi, Gulabad and Landikas areas. The SFs have taken control of Bahrain and cleared Peochar village in Swat, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) stated on May 29. The militants are on the run in small groups from their former Peochar stronghold. Troops have also secured the vital Wanai Bridge linking Matta with Peochar. Some residents of Kanju, who managed to reach Peshawar on May 28, said Mingora, Kanju and Kabal towns were almost cleared as the Taliban had vacated these areas. "They have moved towards mountains," they said. Among the several areas in Swat that have been wrested from the Taliban are Banai Baba Ziarat, the highest point in the Valley, Fizagat, Watakai and Qambar, north of Mingora city. The hill resort of Malam Jabba, which was being used as a training centre and logistics base by the Taliban, has also been secured. Commandos have been air-dropped in Peochar and the headquarters of Maulana Fazlullah, the Taliban chief in Swat, has been effectively surrounded. Military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas disclosed, on May 23, that there were about 1,500 ‘hardcore militants’ still fighting in Swat, and that the Army would try to complete the operation in eight weeks. On May 19, the military had stated that approximately 15,000 troops were confronting some 4,000 well-armed militants in Swat.
In Buner, operations are still continuing in the District headquarters, Daggar, while the SFs had completely secured the Sultanwas area by May 20. A majority of the approximately 400 militants in Buner have reportedly escaped to the safer terrain of the mountains. Since the launch of operations on April 28, progress has been swift but there are still three pockets of resistance in northern Buner, according to Yahya Akhundzada, the District Coordination Officer, who revealed that the difficult site lay between the villages of Sultanwas, about four miles north of Daggar, and Pir Baba, around 10 miles north of Daggar.
In addition, the SFs are also concentrating on the Kalpani and the Maidan areas of Lower Dir District. Brigadier Amal Zada, in charge of the ongoing operations in Lower Dir, told reporters in District headquarters Timergara on May 20 that over 200 militants and 14 soldiers had been killed till then. He added that a large number of militants had left the area in the guise of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). He, however, said the SFs had cordoned off the militant infested areas and established checkpoints in Hayaserai and Lal Qila areas of Maidan. Strafing of militant hideouts is reportedly underway in Kithiarai, Landi Shagi and other areas of Adenzai. The SFs were consolidating their positions in Chakdara while they have cleared the area from Barikot to Tandodag.
Suspected hideouts and camps of the Taliban in the adjoining Districts of Upper Dir, Malakand and Shangla were also being targeted by the Army. With warplanes dropping bombs in five villages of the remote Doog Darra area in Dir Upper District on May 17, it became the sixth District in the Malakand Division, out of seven, where SFs have launched military operations against the Taliban. Malakand Division comprises the seven Districts of Swat, Buner, Shangla, Dir Upper, Dir Lower, Chitral and Malakand. Chitral is the lone district where there is currently no military operation.
The issue of IDPs has cast a shadow on the military operations and indicates a certain lack of strategic planning at the GHQ in Rawalpindi. The fact that Pakistan is facing its biggest refugee crisis since the 1947 Partition was not anticipated by Islamabad, despite the intensity of its own bombing and strafing operations in largely civilian areas, and the state is finding it extremely difficult to cope with the situation. The NWFP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said at a Press Conference in provincial capital Peshawar on May 29 that the number of IDPs now stood at 3.4 million – 2.8 million from Malakand Division alone. The magnitude of the problem is visible from the fact that the UN has hinted at the option of requesting Pakistan to accept a ‘humanitarian pause’ in its military operations in Swat and elsewhere. The issue of IDPs has also led to a deepening of ethnic faultlines in Pakistan. For instance, two province-wide strikes have been organized against the arrival of IDPs in Sindh. Radical Sindhi nationalist groups like the Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz and others have strongly opposed the influx of ethnic Pashtun IDPs in Sindh. At least three people were killed and several vehicles burnt as riots erupted on May 23 throughout Karachi during a strike to protest the en masse arrival of IDPs from Malakand. The simmering ethnic tensions in Sindh are bound to have serious repercussions across an already fragmented nation. There is also the danger of the fleeing Taliban militants mixing themselves with the IDPs. Police have reportedly arrested 39 suspected Taliban militants hiding among the IDPs of Swat and other regions of Malakand, a senior officer stated on May 29. Syed Akhtar Ali Shah, the Police chief in Mardan, disclosed that a dozen militants were arrested in IDP camps south of Swat region, while the others were arrested from houses where the IDPs were staying with relatives or were renting, in a town that hosts some of the approximately one dozen relief camps.
Even as the Taliban demonstrates its retaliatory capacities in the urban areas and the issue of refugees dominates the narrative, doubts are being raised on whether the military operations can be carried to a logical end. More attacks in the cities and Punjab in particular could derail the current campaign. Furthermore, the dependence on heavy artillery and air power has had dangerous ramifications with regard to collateral damage – something that has, as yet, been brushed under the carpet by the media and international community.
While the Government has committed that military operations against the Taliban would be extended to the FATA and other areas, there is a real danger of the Taliban linking up with militant groups from Punjab to threaten the very institutional core of Pakistani stability. Ahmed Rashid notes: "Ultimately we’re going to reach a tipping point where the Taliban will have opened so many fronts in Punjab that it will be almost impossible for the Army to deploy against so many fronts which are so distant from each other geographically." There is expected to be deeper co-ordination and operational co-operation between groups like the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Taliban as was witnessed in the Marriot attack in Islamabad (September 20, 2008) and the attack that targeted the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore.
An advisory issued by the Interior Ministry has said terrorists were planning suicide attacks in different areas of Punjab province in reaction to the ongoing military operations in Swat and other Districts of NWFP. The basic targets in these attacks are likely to be the Security Forces and law enforcement institutions. In addition, Taliban and other terrorists operating in Waziristan have started planting landmines in the area, a private TV channel quoted a BBC report as saying on May 28. Baitullah Mehsud has reportedly ordered ‘commanders’ Asmatullah Muawiya and Qari Zafar to plant landmines across South Waziristan, while the task in North Waziristan has been taken on by different groups active in the Agency.
A counter-insurgency strategy can be effective only if there are operations that target the Taliban-Al Qaeda combine not only in the Malakand Division of NWFP but also in the whole of FATA. In addition, there is the top leadership of the Taliban that continues to find refuge in Balochistan, and a significant presence of the militant network in Punjab and Sindh provinces. Military operations spread across these provinces will be impossible in the current context. While there is immense pressure on the Government to launch a military operation in Waziristan, there is a dilemma of whether they should wait till Swat is secured or open up another front without more ado. There is also the related and enormously significant issue of re-settling the IDPs, whose number continues to augment by the day. All of this has the potential to eventually undermine military operations.
Permanent troop presence is a necessity if the Army is to hold territory. This is possible only if a substantial number of troops are moved from the eastern border. But in Islamabad’s erroneous logic, India remains the main threat to Pakistan’s existence. The US has been asking Pakistan to intensify its offensive against the Taliban but Islamabad is disinclined to move any more troops from the eastern border. But absent such troop relocation, it will not be possible to launch operations in FATA and also continue with the ongoing offensive in the Frontier. And operations in FATA are bound to be arduous and challenging because of the terrain and the nature of the enemy. Moreover, Islamabad cannot merely launch operations in Waziristan alone within the tribal region. It will have to initiate operations in the Khyber, Bajaur, Mohmand, Kurram, and Orakzai agencies, in fact virtually all of FATA as well, if the strategy is to have even a minimal impact. All of this would mean more boots on the ground and the consequent necessity of re-deployment from the eastern border.
A critical objective of any counter-insurgency strategy in the Frontier is a compatible strategy in FATA. There can not be peace in the NWFP without first achieving normalcy in FATA, since there is a clear link between the militancy in the two regions. The Taliban have been sending fighters from Bajaur and other tribal areas to reinforce the militant ranks in Swat whenever the need arises. In fact, the Taliban are able to "receive reinforcements from all over NWFP and even from other provinces in times of need."
Related to holding territory is the broader aspect of stabilising the province. The loss of civil governance and of the spaces currently dominated by the forces of radical Islam has to be reversed, and military ‘successes’ alone cannot suffice. However, even in the territories ‘regained’ in the past, no civil administration worth its name has been established to govern the territory. The NWFP is ‘at war’ and the governance of the province is "becoming difficult", Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti confessed in Peshawar on April 2, 2009. Hoti admitted that the NWFP was suffering from insurgency, terrorism, internal displacement, shortage of food and decline in the efficiency and effectiveness of law enforcement agencies. One of the fundamental reasons for the state’s inability to hold territory in the Frontier is the absence of an effective mechanism for administration on the ground. This is compounded further by severe deficiencies in fighting capacities. While the Army is a relatively well-equipped force, the hamstrung Police face a grim challenge as they attempt to create the first line of defence against urban militancy. 75 per cent of Policemen deployed in Buner District have reportedly gone missing, while over 40 per cent have not reported for duty in Swat. "Almost 310 cops out of the total 400 policemen have reportedly deserted the force in Buner while 820 have quit jobs in Swat. The Swat Police comprise of around 2000 policemen," The News reported on May 26, 2009. It added that over 30 per cent of the total strength of Malakand Police has either quit or Policemen are not reporting to their concerned Police Stations for the past several months. The affliction goes well beyond the constabulary, and senior officers have also been avoiding postings in Malakand for the past two years.
Unlike previous military operations, the Taliban has certainly been on the defensive this time around, and it will take them sometime to regroup, at least in the Malakand Division. They have had a series of setbacks, especially during the street battles in the past week. Unlike previous occasions, there has been some determined action by the Army and its supporting forces, largely due to the external pressure on Islamabad. While an unspecified number of mid-level commanders have been killed in the military offensive so far, the Taliban leadership – including Maulana Fazlullah, Muslim Khan, Ibne Amin and Shah Doraan – remains at large. While there are, at the time of writing, approximately 1,000 Taliban militant still offering resistance in Mingora, scores of them are heading towards their stronghold in Kabal. Recognizing the intensity of the military offensive, a large number of militants have simply trekked back into the mountains. Reports over the past few days indicate that militants are avoiding fighting with the troops and have simply taken evasive action.
The Taliban had, however, prepared well for such an offensive. Sources indicate that the Taliban used the cease-fire period to build bunkers, lay landmines, secure arms and ammunition, recruit more militants and increase the number of training camps in Swat and elsewhere in the Malakand Division. According to the military, a large number of Arabs, Afghans and Uzbeks have joined the fighting in Swat. Officials have also recounted the Taliban’s doggedness in holding on to their strongholds. For instance, the troops captured a strategic ridge popularly known as Baini Baba Ziarat, which is 7,000 feet above sea level, after two weeks of fierce fighting, on May 20. This has been considered the Army’s major success, so far, in the Malakand Division. "It was very difficult to dislodge them from that height," Brigadier Suba Khan, who led the offensive, admitted. "They fought to the last man," Lt-Col Mohamed Riaz, who led the final charge, was quoted as saying in Dawn. Up to 150 militants were killed in the battle, described by the two military officials as the bloodiest since the operations began in Swat. Baini Baba Ziarat had been used by the Taliban as a training centre for a long time.
While there will be some momentary gains from the ongoing military operations, the neutralization of Islamist extremism will necessitate what Ahmed Rashid describes as a "strategic paradigm shift by the Government and the Army." Such a shift, he says, will affect domestic and foreign policy, relations with Pakistan's neighbours and a different set of national interest priorities. Pakistan is certainly not ready for any of these as yet and, more importantly, any abrupt course correction will threaten its very identity and existence.
has refused to give any timeline for the conclusion
of military operations in NWFP and there is little prospect
for an early termination. While the troops appear to
have encircled the Taliban in various places and have
inflicted large (and at least significant dubious) casualties,
there is much to suggest that the Army is in for a long
haul. In the coming days and weeks, Islamabad’s resolve
to combat the Taliban in the Frontier and elsewhere
in the country will be tested severely. It is, moreover,
evident that current military operations are essentially
targeting the TTP and its affiliates – the Afghan Taliban
– al Qaeda network does not appear to be within the
ambit of their objectives. It is significant that past
military operations, despite establishing a transient
ascendancy, did not lead to the neutralization of the
militants. If existing public opinion against the forces
of radical Islam and the political consensus is not
taken advantage of, Pakistan will continue to be a country
which the co-author of President Barack Obama’s AfPak
strategy review, Bruce Riedel, aptly noted "has
more terrorists per square mile than anyplace else on
earth, and it has a nuclear weapons program that is
growing faster than anyplace else on earth." That
is a combination that can only create grave anxieties
in the region, and across the world.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
May 25-31, 2009
164 Taliban militants and 32 soldiers among 217 persons killed in NWFP during the week: Security Forces (SFs) on May 31, 2009 entered the Kalam Valley and took control of Mingora city in Swat District, while 12 militants were killed during the last 24 hours in the ongoing Operation Rah-e-Rast, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said. Eight SF personnel were also killed and six others sustained injuries, it added. Mingora city is now reportedly in control of the SFs who are manning every square, street and building and keeping a vigil on every passing vehicle and people. In addition, the SFs killed two militants at the Umerzeb checkpoint in Dir Lower District during an encounter with the militants.
SFs cleared Mingora city of the Taliban and destroyed the stronghold of the militant commanders, ISPR spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said on May 30. Addressing a joint press conference with Information Minister Qamar Zaman Qaira, he said 25 Taliban militants were killed during the last 24 hours, including commanders, Abu Saeed Misbahud Din and Sultan Khan. He said SFs have successfully secured Nawagai and Najigram, and seized a large cache of arms and ammunition. He also said that the training centre of known Taliban commanders Lal Din, Said Jalil and Mian Said Liaq have been destroyed in Peochar, adding, five 100-foot-long tunnels have also been demolished. Responding to questions, he said 1,217 Taliban militants were killed and 79 arrested since the start of the military offensive on April 26. In the same period, 81 SF personnel were also killed while 250 others sustained injuries, he added.
SFs took control of Bahrain and cleared Peochar village in the Swat District, the ISPR said on May 29 as SFs killed 28 Taliban militants, including commander Khush Mir Khan a.k.a. Abu Huzaifa. In addition, during a search operation in the Kalpani area of Lower Dir District, the army killed six Taliban commanders. Further, SFs also defused five improvised explosive devices during a search operation around Daggar in Buner District. The army is reported to have killed 13 Taliban militants hiding in a compound during a gun-battle.
Terrorists attacked Peshawar, capital of the NWFP, and its environs on May 28 as eight people were killed and over 68 sustained injuries. Two separate blasts took place in the Qissa Khwani bazaar while three Policemen were killed and nine others injured in a suicide attack on a Police vehicle at the Sra Khawra security post on the Kohat road. Two suspected militants were killed and two others arrested in an encounter between the Police and alleged terrorists who had taken shelter in a building located behind Qissa Khwani bazaar soon after the two blasts. Meanwhile, SFs on May 28 entered Bahrain, while seven more militants were killed and four others, including an important commander, were arrested during the last 24 hours in the ongoing operation in Swat Valley, the ISPR said. Four soldiers were also killed while 12 others sustained injuries in clashes between SFs and militants in different areas of Swat valley.
SFs said on May 27 they would clear Mingora town in Swat District of the Taliban within two to three days, as 12 more militants were killed in the ongoing military operation. Mingora Force Commander Brigadier Tahir Hamid told the media that SFs had secured 70 percent of Mingora city. He said the army was chasing the Taliban through the streets. According to an ISPR statement, one solider was also killed during the operation in the last 24 hours. In addition, two soldiers were killed when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb in Qambar near Mingora, AFP reported. In addition, troops claimed on May 27 to have killed 10 militants in the Maidan area of Lower Dir District on May 26-night. Militants’ hideouts in Zaimdara, Shagai, Dabako, Babagam and other place of upper Maidan reportedly came under shelling.
SFs gained control of half of Mingora city and killed 29 militants in various areas of Swat Valley during the last 24 hours besides arresting 14 others, the ISPR Director General Major General Athar Abbas said on May 26. "Six soldiers also laid down their lives and 11 others sustained injuries," he told reporters at a press briefing in Islamabad. About Buner, he said 90 percent area of the District had been cleared although some terrorists are present at Pir Baba. He added that in the night of May 25, about 100 to 120 militants attacked the Kalpani post in Dir Lower District from three directions and the attack was repulsed and militants suffered heavy casualties. Eight bodies have been recovered in close vicinity of the check-post. Two SF personnel were also killed in the incident and three others were wounded. Further, several militants and five civilians were killed and 10 others injured in shelling by the military gunship helicopters in Shangla District. Sources said SFs, backed by gunship helicopters, targeted the militant-infested areas of Jabar, Amnavi and Achar in the early hours of May 26.
The SFs on May 25 secured the training centre and logistic base of militants in the Malam Jabba area of Swat Valley. They also killed four militants during operations in the Fizagat and Peuchar areas and arrested eight others. According to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), SFs faced stiff resistance from the militants in Malam Jabba. Located on main line of communication that links the Swat Valley with Mansehra, the area with thick forest was being used as a training centre and logistic base by the militants. SFs also secured Fizagat, a few kilometres north of Mingora city, and the area up to Watakai. During the operations, two militants were killed and six soldiers were wounded in an encounter. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, May 26-June 1, 2009.
51 militants and seven soldiers killed during the week in FATA: 25 militants, including a senior commander of the Baitullah Mehsud-led Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, Miraj Burki, and six soldiers were killed and several others wounded in clashes between the militants and Security Forces (SFs) in South Waziristan Agency in the night of May 31. Other reports said 13 soldiers were killed and over two dozens injured. Fierce fighting between the two sides has reportedly forced thousands of tribal families to leave their homes in the Mehsud-inhabited areas. The latest clashes erupted with two different attacks on a security post and a military convoy by the militants at Spinkai Raghzai and Tiarza.
Two Taliban militants and a soldier were killed in a clash between the SFs and militants near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in South Waziristan in the night of May 29. Local residents and political administration officials said some Taliban militants attacked a check-post of the SFs at Narai Sarkai border area with rocket launchers killing a soldier, Shahid, and injuring two others. Two Taliban militants were killed and another injured when the troops retaliated.
15 Taliban militants were killed and several injured by the SFs shelling in the in Sarokai area of South Waziristan Agency on May 27.
SFs on May 26 launched a military operation against the Baitullah Mehsud-led militants in South Waziristan, reportedly killing seven militants. However, the military spokesman, Major General Athar Abbas, denied the operation in South Waziristan and said SFs had just consolidated their positions in the region. Further, SFs shot dead two suspected militants when they refused to surrender in the Mamad Gat area of Mohmand Agency on May 26. Sources told The News that the duo, whose identity could not be established, were heading for Ghallanai from the Chinari area when the SFs stopped them near the Mohmand Rifles camp and ordered them to surrender. However, the militants resisted, which prompted the troops to open indiscriminate fire, killing both of them on the spot. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, May 26-June 1, 2009.
27 persons killed and 400 injured in suicide attack near ISI and Police offices in Lahore: Suicide bombers detonated a vehicle loaded with 100 kilograms of explosives near offices of the capital city police officer (CCPO) and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in Lahore on May 27, 2009 – killing at least 27 persons and injuring 400 others, in addition to destroying a two-storey building of the Rescue 15 police service, according to Police. An ISI Colonel and 15 Police officials were among those killed. Witnesses said the attack started midmorning when two gunmen stepped out of a white van – which had pulled up in a narrow street separating the police and ISI buildings – cautioned civilians to take cover, and started firing at Security Force (SF) personnel deployed down the street. The gunmen also hurled a grenade at the SFs personnel. As the firing continued, the driver managed to cross the concrete barrier, but could not get further and was forced to blow up the vehicle there. Superintendent of Police Sohail Sukhera said a threefold security cordon prevented the attackers from getting to the offices CCPO and ISI offices. He said the terrorist in the vehicle was shot – which prompted him to blow up the vehicle about a hundred feet away from the intended target, in front of the Rescue 15 building.
Officials later said at least three suspects had been detained. Civil Defence District Officer Mazhar Abbas said a suicide jacket and two Russian-made hand grenades had been found from the blast site. The AP news agency reported that "several intelligence agents" were among the dead. A nearby filling station was totally destroyed and several car showrooms damaged. The ceilings of several operating rooms in a nearby hospital caved in, and windows of buildings in a two-kilometre radius were shattered. Most of the outer wall of the ISI office was destroyed and the building partially damaged, while the CCPO’s office was also damaged. Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the blast was in reaction to the military operation in the Malakand Division of NWFP. Daily Times; The News, May 28, 2009.
10,000 men protecting nuclear assets, says senior defence official: A senior official of Pakistan’s premier defence establishment has said that a large force of nearly 10,000 people is in place to ensure security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and western fears about the safety of the weapons are unfounded. Air Commodore Khalid Banuri, who is Director of Arms Control and Disarmament Affairs at the Strategic Plans Division, said that Pakistan’s ‘command and control structure’ for the weapons was better than that of many other nuclear states, and many countries and their experts had officially acknowledged this. In an interview with DawnNews, Air Commodore Banuri described as "preposterous" western media reports that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons might fall into wrong hands — terrorists or other non-state actors. "The intent clearly appears to be mala fide," he said, adding "It does not make sense for anyone to continue to harp on this despite having understanding of how Pakistan does its work." He said: "We have taken stringent measures which are legislative, institutional, procedural and administrative. We have ensured all aspects of nuclear capability." Elaborating, he said that a large force of highly trained and professional people — in fact over 10,000 people were looking after the security of the nuclear assets. Dawn, May 28, 2009.
11 LTTE militants killed in Batticaloa District: 11 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militants were killed by the troops in the Kalavanchikudi area of Batticaloa District in the morning of May 27, 2009. Subsequently, the troops recovered dead bodies of all the slain militants along with five T-56 weapons, 20 claymore mines weighing about 15 kilograms each, two hand grenades, three anti-personnel mines and a stock of medical items from the area. Sri Lanka Army, May 27, 2009.