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Pakistan Military Captures Taliban Leader's Hometown


Pakistan's military says troops have captured the hometown of Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud, following days of fierce fighting in South Waziristan.

Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said soldiers took control of the town of Kotkai on Saturday, and are now working to clear the area. He said militants had converted many of the homes to bunkers. At least 12 militants and two soldiers were reported killed in the battle for the town.

The operation was part of the army's ongoing offensive against Taliban insurgents in the tribal region, along the Afghan border.

Also in the northwest Saturday, officials say a suspected U.S. missile strike killed at least 15 people in the Bajaur tribal region.

A government official says the attack targeted a house believed to be used by a senior Taliban commander (Maulvi Faqir) who escaped the strike. Some of his relatives and "foreign" militants were believed to be among those killed.


The Pakistani military says it had killed 163 militants in its offensive in South Waziristan, which began last Saturday. The army has lost 23 soldiers. The fighting has displaced thousands of people.

There is no independent confirmation of the tolls, as the region is closed to outsiders and is dangerous even for local reporters to visit.

Suspected Taliban attacks have killed nearly 200 people in recent weeks.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said "fear is not an option despite the ferocity of the attacks," vowing on Friday to continue the military operation until its logical conclusion.

Authorities have tightened security across the country and have closed schools until Monday.

Elsewhere in the northwest, Pakistani officials say a military helicopter crashed in Bajaur, killing three people on board.

And a senior police official in North West Frontier Province (Muhammad Karim Khan) told VOA Deewa Radio on Saturday that close to a 1,000 "illegal" Afghan refugees have been arrested in the province, in a crackdown on Afghans who do not have legal documents to stay in Pakistan.

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