More than 100 militants armed with rockets attacked a security check post in Makeen area of South Waziristan Agency on Thursday, triggering gun battles that left eight soldiers dead and injured seven others. Twelve militants were also killed and five were injured in retaliation, confirmed an official in Peshawar.
“The attack took place at the Marobi check post after midnight,” said the official. “Dozens of militants, taking advantage of the night, attacked the check post in Mehsud territory,” he added. However, the exact number of the militants could not be ascertained.
Local sources said that the battle lasted more than three hours, after which security officials launched a search operation in the area.
It was for the second time in a week that scores of militants besieged a check post in the tribal belt, underscoring the scale of the threat that Taliban and al Qaeda-linked extremists pose to security forces.
Last week, the Taliban staged a similar attack in the northwest, and officials said up to 400 militants took part.
“The militants were carrying rockets and heavy weapons and attacked the check post shortly after midnight,” an intelligence official in Waziristan told Reuters, describing the latest attack.
“This was expected,” said Col (retd) Khalid Munir, an expert on the geography of the area. “The area was previously like a ghost town, but since the return of the displaced people, the military will have to take necessary steps to stop such attacks,” he added.
The attack came on the heels of a flurry of missile strikes by US drone aircraft in the tribal region.
Intelligence officials say there has been an escalation of drone strikes in South Waziristan because militants have been fleeing there following speculation that the army plans an offensive in North Waziristan. The Taliban have intensified attacks across the country in recent weeks to avenge the killing of Osama bin Laden by US Special Forces in Abbottabad on May 2.
The attack appeared to be part of a new strategy by the Taliban of staging large-scale assaults on military and government targets in a bid to demoralise the army.
WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM AGENCIES
Published in The Express Tribune, June 10th, 2011.