Pakistan Army Blasts Rebel Chief Hideout

The Pakistani army launched a massive air and ground attack against the mountain stronghold of Baitullah Mehsud, the Taliban commander they believe played a major role in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Hundreds of troops supported by tanks, helicopter gunships and artllery surrounded his headquarters as both sides blasted away at one another. Up to this point, the Pakistan army has been hesitant to come to grips with the Taliban leader, but apparently, there are strong pressures being exerted to ensure he is either killed, captured or forced to flee the northwest region. The attacks come a week after hundreds of his soldiers overwhelmed a Pakistan militry fortification killing several troops and capturing about two dozen.

The entire area has been barred to foreign correspondents but reports filtering out indicate this is among the most forceful Pakistan attack on the rebel chieftain. Mehsud told his troops in a radio broadcast, “It is an order from God that you continue the fight. You must struggle until our last breath.” Up to this point, President Musharraf has attempted negotiation with Mehsud, but the new commander of Pakistan’s army, General Ashfaq Kayani, has decided on a more forceful method of dealing with the Taliban leader.

No one knows at this time what will happen. A victory over the Taliban leader might encourage Pakistan’s military to assum a more proactive role in dealing with the Taliban.