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Posts Tagged ‘army’

By Sheikh Jana, The New York Times

The Pakistani forces air-dropped commandos into the main town in Buner on Wednesday and quickly retook control of it from Taliban militants who flooded into the area last week, the military said. But the district was far from recaptured and the military may be in for a hard fight.

Villagers who fled the fighting and made it to this village on the plains said the military was bombing in Buner with fighter jets and firing rockets from helicopter gunships as Pakistani troops battled the Taliban on the ground for a second day.

Despite a curfew imposed by both the Taliban and the army, one villager, Walayat Khan, a cowherd in his 20s who did not know his exact age, said everyone was trying to get out of the district.

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By Zahid Hussain, The Wall Street Journal

ISLAMABAD — Airborne commandos took back a key northwestern Pakistani town Wednesday, halting a Taliban advance that had brought the militants close to Pakistan’s capital.

Fighter jets also pounded militants still holding on to part of the Buner district, killing at least 50 insurgents, a military spokesman said.

Evacuees from Buner walk next to trucks loaded with their possessions on the outskirts of Peshawar.

Army troops took control of Dagar, the main town of Buner district, which was captured by the Taliban moving in from their Swat-valley stronghold last week. The Taliban’s advance startled the nation and alarmed U.S. officials who want Pakistan to do more to curb the militant threat that also faces U.S. troops in neighboring Afghanistan.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Facing imminent battlefield defeat, Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels declared a unilateral cease-fire Sunday and called on the government to halt its offensive to spare the tens of thousands of civilians trapped by the fighting.

The government rejected the appeal and accused the rebels of playing for time as the military stands poised to rout them and end the separatist war that has plagued this Indian Ocean island nation for a quarter century.

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By BBC News
The Sri Lankan army has said there will be no more breaks in fighting against the Tamil Tigers in the north of the country, as it closes in on the rebels.

Spokesman Brig Shavendra Silva said the only way civilians could leave the area was if the army rescued them, as the rebels would not let any more out.
Rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was still in the conflict zone, he added.
The UN has been calling on both sides to pause hostilities so aid can be sent in and people evacuated.
It is sending an aid team to the area, where it says 50,000 are trapped.
The BBC’s Charles Haviland, who travelled through areas close to the frontline and saw refugees who had recently fled from the fighting, says many looked seriously ill and most very weak.
The government says 100,000 people have fled since Monday’s military push. An estimated 60,000 people had already fled in recent months.
A UN document being circulated around diplomatic missions in Sri Lanka estimates that nearly 6,500 civilians have died and 14,000 have been injured.
(The BBC’s Charles Haviland, in Puthukkudiyiruppu near the front line).
A jolting ride in armoured vehicles took us across the swathe of north-east Sri Lanka which until a couple of months ago was held by the rebels. Buildings are badly damaged and the land is devoid of people. They’ve all been taken to areas the government calls welfare villages. Then suddenly, in coconut groves, we saw a long line of people who’ve freshly fled from the conflict zone. Many looked seriously ill, and most very weak. Surrounded by soldiers, people told us briefly that they’d been hungry or thirsty, or were happy to be out, or that the Tamil Tigers had prevented them from leaving. We and they were then moved on.
Meanwhile senior Indian officials have met Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Colombo, following Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s call to end the killing of civilians.
No details of the meeting have been released, but Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and National Security Adviser M K Narayanan were expected to stress the severity of the humanitarian crisis.
Brig Silva said intelligence reports indicated that Velupillai Prabhakaran and other rebel leaders were still in the conflict zone and appeared to be preparing to make a last stand.

He has not been seen for 18 months, and there was speculation that he was killed or fled the island.

The army spokesman added that the Tamil Tigers were dressing in civilian clothing to blend in, and firing into the zone using heavy weaponry so people would think the army was firing at them.
But our correspondent says there is no way of verifying these reports.
On Thursday, the representative of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in Colombo, Amin Awad, called on the Sri Lankan government to allow pauses in the fighting so the necessary work could be completed.
“We are calling on the government to restrain itself and have the moral upper ground by allowing the humanitarian aid in, and we’re asking the LTTE [Tamil Tigers] to open the gates of hell and allow these people out into safety,” he said.
Hours earlier, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced the immediate despatch of the humanitarian team.
Thousands of people are caught with the Tamil Tigers in a 12 sq km (5 sq m) area in the north of the country as the military closes in.
The UN’s humanitarian coordinator, Neil Buhne, said tens of thousands of people were living in camps in the northern town of Vavuniya.
“I saw infants with dysentery, malnourished children and women, untended wounds, and people dressed in the ragged clothing they’ve been wearing for months,” the Associated Press quoted him as saying.
Paul McMaster, a British surgeon with Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF), told the BBC a “continuous stream” of patients had been arriving at the hospital in Vavuniya since the weekend.
He said the hospital was equipped with 400 beds but was treating nearly 2,000 patients, many of them with gunshot wounds and blast injuries.
“We are doing emergency surgery, but the hospital is completely overwhelmed,” he said, with patients lying on the floor, in corridors and outside under trees and temporary shelters.
‘Rescue operation’
On Thursday, Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa rejected a UN appeal to allow aid agencies in.

While the government has allowed aid agencies to help those fleeing the conflict, Sri Lanka’s UN ambassador says only the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Catholic charity, Caritas, have been let into the war zone itself.
On Wednesday the UN Security Council, which had been accused of inaction, called on the Tamil Tigers to lay down their arms and urged the Sri Lankan government to allow international aid agencies into areas of need.

The UN and Western nations – including the US and the UK – have been pressing for an immediate halt to the fighting to allow time for civilians to leave the war zone safely.

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By Timothy Williams, New York Times

BAGHDAD — At least 75 people were killed and 120 wounded in two explosions in Iraq on Thursday that shook a quiet residential Baghdad neighborhood and a restive city north of the capital where Iranian tourists were attacked.

Women near the site of a suicide bombing in the Karada district of Baghdad on Thursday that killed 28, including 12 police officers.

Also Thursday, a major leader of the Sunni insurgency, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, was captured in Baghdad, according to Major General Qassim Atta, the Army official responsible for security in the capital. Mr. Baghdadi is the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella group of Sunni militant forces.

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By Agence France-Presse


COTABATO, Philippines, April 22, 2009 (AFP) – A powerful homemade bomb exploded at a public market in the southern Philippines, injuring two people, the military said Wednesday.

The improvised explosive device was fashioned from a 60-millimetre mortar shell rigged to a timing device, and went off late Tuesday at the market in a town in Sultan Kudarat province, army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Ponce said.

Ponce said witnesses reported seeing a man leaving a suspicious backpack at the site minutes before the blast.

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By James Traub, The Washington Post

At this moment, at least 60,000 civilians trapped in a tiny strip of land along the northern coast of Sri Lanka are being deployed as human shields by the insurgent force known as the Tamil Tigers — while artillery shells fired by the Sri Lankan army land indiscriminately among rebels and noncombatants alike. The United Nations asserts that at least 4,500 civilians have been killed since January as the government has sought to decisively end a bloody rebellion that has lasted for a quarter-century. The army is said to be preparing a final assault that, according to U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes, could produce a “bloodbath.” Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has spoken of “tens of thousands” of lives at risk. Yet the conflict has barely been reported, and the international community has barely stirred.
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