Pak on alert after Taliban warn of reprisals against military campaign

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Peshawar, June 30 : Pakistan has reportedly stepped up security around its airports, government buildings and diplomatic missions, after Islamic militants warned of reprisals against Islamabad's military campaign targeting Taliban strongholds around Peshawar, the Capital city of NWFP bordering Afghanistan.

Baitullah Mehsud, a hardline Islamic militant linked to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, had broke off all peace initiatives in the country's northern belt along the Afghan border, saying "the peace process is dead and buried."

"Baitullah Mehsud has warned of a major retaliation," the Financial Times quoted a senior Pakistani government official as saying.

Security officials warned of the danger of suicide attacks - increasingly used in the past year by Islamic militants, including those backed by Mehsud, added the paper.

On Saturday, tanks backed by heavy artillery, infantry and special troops, seized control of an enclave outside Peshawar used by militants to travel to and from Afghanistan. At least three other locations linked to the Taliban were also attacked and destroyed.

Earlier, last week, Pakistani intelligence officials had said that there was an imminent threat of the Taliban taking over Peshawar.

Meanwhile, residents in Peshawar said that a military operation against militants will not restore law and order, and was "pointless". They said that the federal government's past indifference towards militancy had encouraged the militants, and that an operation would worsen the situation because the militants would also retaliate.

Military operations in Swat, Darra Adamkhel and Khyber Agency were the government's "futile face-saving attempts", they said and expressed their doubts over the government's achievements in Swat and Darra Adamkhel operations, claiming that militants were free to attack government installations and pressure it anytime.

Mohaibullah, a businessman in Peshawar Saddar, said that the ongoing "bloodshed" made no sense as Muslims were killing each other for no reason. Concerning the Khyber Agency operation, he said Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) chief Mengal Bagh was an operative of intelligence agencies, and that they had tipped him off to vacate his centres before the operation.

ANI

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