Pak general says key Taleban leaders killed, captured in border camp raids

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Peshawar, Mar. 1 (ANI): A Pakistani general has claimed that key leaders of the Pakistani Taleban have been killed or captured in an onslaught of frontier ground and air attacks.

"The militant command and control centres and their caches have been dismantled or captured," Major General Tariq Khan, one of the country's most experienced commanders in the frontier war with the Taleban, told The Times.

"The kind of hits the leadership has taken, the casualties they have taken, the TTP [Pakistani Taleban] is no longer significant. It has ended as a cohesive force. It doesn't exist any more as an umbrella organisation that can influence militancy anywhere," he added.

The claims come at a time of improved military co-operation between America and Pakistan, in which US drones have killed a number of key Pakistani Taleban commanders, and Pakistani security agents have arrested at least four senior Afghan Taleban leaders over the past month.

It was no coincidence that two US Special Forces soldiers waited in a courtyard near the general's office in the Bala Hisar fortress in Peshawar.

"The [US] Socom Special Ops Group has a few liaison officers with me. They iron out the issues on the border during combat," General Khan said.

The general commands 45,000 troops from the Frontier Corps, the locally recruited federal paramilitary force based in North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

He is a central figure in Operation Rah-e-Nijat ("Path to Deliverance") that began in the South Waziristan tribal agency in October, and has been killing or clearing the Taleban of the Mehsud tribe with a speed that British forces fighting there during the last century would have envied.

The TTP have been attacked by drones or harried by ground forces throughout all but one of Pakistan's seven tribal border agencies, known collectively as the FATA.

"The military was keen to smash the myth of the Mehsud invincibility in Waziristan and to be fair it has done so," said one Western diplomat.

Of al-Qaeda, however, there seemed suspiciously little evidence.

General Khan said: "There was some Arab influence in terms of resources and money. We haven't found a dedicated al-Qaeda command-and- control centre. My commandant in Bajaur . . . says it's like a pinch of flour in a bag of salt - you get the flavour but can't catch the individuals." (ANI)

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