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Operation imminent against Pakistani Taliban, says minister

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2009-10-12

Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Sunday a long-planned operation against militants in its south Waziristan region was "imminent" after an attack on the army headquarters near the capital in which al Qaeda is suspected.

REUTERS - A long-planned operation to flush out militants from Pakistan’s Waziristan region is imminent, the government said on Sunday, blaming suspected al Qaeda-backed militants for striking at the heart of the military.


“It has been decided, the civilian leadership has decided ... the operation is imminent,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik told Reuters in an interview in Singapore.


Hours earlier Pakistani commandos stormed an office building in Rawalpindi and rescued 39 people taken hostage by militants in a raid on the army headquarters.


Malik said members of the Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda were suspected to be behind Saturday’s attack which ended a week when suicide bombers struck in the capital Islamabad and Peshawar, killing more than 50 people.


“The man who has been arrested, his name is Usman. He is a TTP (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan) guy, but we have some indications he’s also from al Qaeda,” said Malik, who was in Singapore for an Interpol conference.


A security official in Pakistan’s Punjab province earlier said he believed Usman was from the Lashkar-e-Jhanghvi group and another security official said some of the men involved in the attack spoke Punjabi.


But Malik said it was too early to conclude that
Punjab-based groups were involved in the attack, which has stoked renewed concern that militants have taken the battle to Pakistan’s heartland.


“We’ve heard that some people are Punjabi speaking. But you never know from the language, you can’t make (it) out. The language can be deceptive.”


The men who planned the Rawalpindi attack had hired a house for the last two months, where they were living. “The day they had to do the action, they disappeared from the house,” he said.


On Saturday, gunmen wearing army uniforms attacked the army headquarters, killing six soldiers including a brigadier and a lieutenant colonel in a gunbattle at a main gate.


Five gunmen were killed there and two of their wounded colleagues captured. But others fled and took hostages in a building housing security offices near the headquarters. The militants were overpowered on Sunday.

Date created : 2009-10-11

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