Whether it was the first shots in the rumored offensive or simply an isolated incident was unclear, but Pakistani helicopter gunships were sent into South Waziristan today, where they killed six “suspected Taliban.”
Major General Athar Abbas insisted the raid was simply a response to a previous Taliban attack on a fortress belonging to the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC). Still, a build-up of forces in the Mehsud tribal areas and persistent reports of an impending offensive were tough to ignore.
Civilians have been fleeing South Waziristan for weeks, driven by reports of an impending offensive and public comments from President Asif Ali Zardari vowing to expand the disastrous offensive against the Swat Valley to other regions, with North and South Waziristan seemingly a likely target.
South Waziristan, and the Mehsud tribal areas in particular, are home to Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Baitullah Mehsud. Mehsud has taken credit for some of the biggest terror attacks in Pakistan, and the group’s Swat Valley auxiliary is at the center of repelling the massive offensive there.