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October 22nd, 2009
11:22 AM ET

Pakistan: Behind the Waziristan offensive

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/10/18/pakistan.offensive.militants/art.mehsud.afp.gi.jpg caption="Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud, pictured in November 2008."]

Aryn Baker
Time

After nearly three months of planning, and very public anticipation, Pakistan's military moved on the South Waziristan stronghold of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an umbrella group of militants that Pakistani officials say have been behind some 80% of terrorist attacks in the country over the past few years, including the 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto and a recent spate of violence that has taken 150 lives in the past two weeks.

The ground operation, code-named Rah-i-Nijat (Urdu for "Path to Deliverance"), was launched early Saturday morning after weeks of heavy aerial bombardments that were designed to weaken militant fortifications. By Sunday, some 28,000 soldiers had moved into a remote corner of the mountainous region, in a three-pronged attack intended to trap the estimated 7,000 to 10,000 militants in South Waziristan, including some 1,000 Uzbek and foreign fighters who may be affiliated with al-Qaeda.

Heavy fighting has already claimed the lives of at least three soldiers (two of whom were killed by a land mine) and dozens of militants, according to military officials. Across the country, Pakistanis were glued to their television sets, watching an offensive that seemed far away against the militants who were believed to be responsible for the widespread terrorist attacks that have left few corners of the country unscathed. Sunday morning's Dawn newspaper led with the headline "Army Embarks on Rah-i-Nijat, Finally."

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Pakistan • Taliban
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