Pakistan ordered its army to go after the country's top Taliban commander, a feared al-Qaida-allied terrorist whose remote stronghold could prove a difficult test for troops but whose demise would remove a major threat to the country's stability.
The announcement Sunday of the operation in South Waziristan, rumored for weeks, came hours after a suspected US missile strike killed five alleged militants there. The move will likely please Washington, which wants Pakistan to eliminate safe havens for militants leaving Afghanistan and which considers South Waziristan a particularly troublesome hideout for al-Qaida.
Owais Ghani, the governor of North West Frontier Province, told reporters in Islamabad late Sunday that the government felt it had no choice but to resort to force against Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud and his network. Past army action in the region had usually faltered or ended in truces, strengthening the militants.
"Baitullah Mehsud is the root cause of all evils," Ghani said, noting a slew of suicide bombings that have shaken Pakistan in recent days. "The government has decided that to secure the innocent citizens from terrorists, a meaningful, durable and complete action is to be taken."