Pakistani army seizes Taliban stronghold after week-long battle

Pakistani armed forces say they have captured the town of Kotkai on Saturday, the hometown of Taliban Chief Hakimullah Mehsud and one of his top officers, Qari Hussain.

This comes after a week-long battle was launched on Monday, in part of an operation to curb the influence of the Taliban in South Waziristan. The operation began the previous Saturday when Pakistani forces approached from three separate areas of South Waziristan. Pakistan plans to trap Taliban within the area while approaching the towns of Makeen and Ladha, both of which are major Taliban strongholds.

Major General Athar Abbas, the chief spokesman for the military, said at a news briefing that “we have complete control of Kotkai, a stronghold of the terrorists, where most of the houses had been converted into strong bunkers. This is a very important development tactically.”

So far, Pakistani officials have reported that 163 militants have been killed, while the military sustained 23 casualties. However, there was no independent confirmation for the tolls.

The entire area has been closed off, but there have been recent acts of violence which have officials worried. In recent weeks, Pakistan has seen attacks on police centers, military headquarters and a UN building. There have also been five attacks on an Islamic university in Islamabad, the capital.

It has been reported that over 21,000 civilian families, an estimated 153,000 individuals, have fled South Waziristan, and have taken refuge in the North-West Frontier Province.

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