04 March 2010

The trail heats up?

I haven't seen much reaction to this article from the Times Online in the blogosphere (H/T SWJ). It appears that the Pakistani Army captured a series of over 150 caves near the Afghan-Pakistani border, believed to have harbored al-Qaeda. The story gets even better: according to the article, Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's number two operative--some say the real brains of al-Qaeda--may have been in the cave complex just shortly before the raid.

Pakistani forces have taken control of a warren of caves that served until recently as the nerve centre of the Taleban and al-Qaeda and sheltered Ayman al-Zawahiri, the second-in-command to Osama bin Laden.

“It was the main hub of militancy where al-Qaeda operatives had moved freely,” Major-General Tariq Khan, the Pakistan regional commander, said as he gave journalists a tour of Damadola yesterday.

The village, nestling among snow-capped peaks in the Bajaur region along the Afghan border, has been fought over for 16 months. It is the first time that the Pakistani Army has set foot in the village, which had long been dominated by the insurgents operating on the both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

“Al-Qaeda was there. They had occupied the ridges. There were 156 caves designed as a defensive complex,” said General Khan, head of the Frontier Corps responsible for Pakistan’s counter-insurgency campaign in the region. He said that his forces had killed 75 foreign and local militants and cleared a zone up to the Afghan border, and that the campaign against the insurgents was in its final stage...

...Journalists were shown caves strewn with blankets and pillows, left in haste as the army approached in January. The village has been largely destroyed by the fighting...

...According to officials he and some other al-Qaeda operatives had been attending a dinner but left just before the attack. The ruins of the house hit by the missiles were still present...

This comes hot on the heels of Pakistan's capture of nearly half the Quetta Shura--the inner circle of Taliban leaders--just last week.

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