Archive for Monday, July 16, 2007

Militants launch attack, ending truce

July 16, 2007


— For 10 months, the peace along the Afghan border appeared to hold. The fiercely independent tribes and the Islamic militants kept their truce with President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and the government in turn kept its soldiers in their barracks.

Critics said the break in military operations just allowed the Taliban militants tighten their grip.

On Sunday, a council of local leaders disavowed the cease-fire agreement and almost simultaneously suspected militants launched two days of suicide attacks and bombings that killed at least 70 people.

The attacks followed strident calls by extremists to revenge the government's bloody storming of Islamabad's Red Mosque and a declaration of jihad, or holy war, by at least one cleric in the northwest.

Termination of the peace treaty, Musharaff's hopeful handiwork, puts even greater pressure on the key U.S. ally to contain both the mounting militant blood-letting and a pro-democracy movement in advance of elections later this year.

Political opponents say Musharraf may use the turbulence as an excuse to cancel the polls and declare a state of emergency, something he has denied.

However, Musharraf can also use the turbulence to convince Washington, his key backer, that he remains a vital bulwark against extremists in the Islamic world's only declared nuclear state.

The U.S. national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, expressed concern Sunday about the threat from militants in Pakistan, but supported Musharraf's recent response.

"He has a safe haven problem in an area of his country where Pakistan's central government has really not been present for decades or even generations. It is a problem for him," Hadley told CNN's "Late Edition."

In a separate interview on the Fox news network Sunday, Hadley acknowledged that the United States had been dissatisfied with Musharraf's policies.

"The action has at this point not been adequate, not effective," Hadley said. "He's doing more. We are urging him to do more, and we're providing our full support to what he's contemplating."

Abdullah Farhad, a militant spokesman, said the 10-month-old cease-fire was being terminated in North Waziristan, a remote area on the Afghan border where the U.S. worries that al-Qaida has regrouped.

He said Taliban leaders made the decision after the government failed to abide by their demand to withdraw troops from checkpoints by Sunday afternoon.

He also accused authorities of launching attacks and failing to compensate those harmed.

"The peace agreement has ended," Farhad told reporters in Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province.


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