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Baloch leader Bugti killed
21 army commandos, 37 rebels dead in Pak army operation
Asia News International

Islamabad/Karachi/Quetta, August 27
Senior Baloch leader and chief of Pakistan’s Bugti tribe, Nawab Akbar Bugti, was killed in a massive military operation in the Bhambore Hills, an area between the cities of Kohlu and Dera Bugti, late last night.

Seventy-nine-year-old Bugti, who was the president of the Jamhoori Watan Party and the driving force behind the anti-government rebellion in Balochistan, was killed in an army operation that targeted 50 to 80 of his closest family members and top commanders.

Pakistan’s Information and Broadcasting Minister Ali Durrani told reporters in Islamabad that President Pervez Musharraf was informed about Bugti’s killing this morning. An official statement said in the exchange of fire, 21 army commandos and 37 rebels had also been killed.

The deceased reportedly included Balochistan Liberation Army chief Balach Marri and Nawab Bugti’s grandsons Brahamdagh and Mir Ali Bugti. Some sources said Bugti and his entourage were betrayed by some of his own tribesmen, who sold the coordinates of his exact location, thus enabling the Pakistani security forces to target his hideout with US.-manufactured missiles.

The statement further said that Nawab Bugti’s location was discovered on August 23, leading the security forces to lay siege to the hills in which he was presumed to be hiding.

His exact whereabouts were subsequently established by monitoring satellite phone intercepts, the statement by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said.

It also said two army helicopters, flying over the Tartani area in Kohlu on August 23, were fired upon from the ground and one helicopter was damaged. Another chopper was also hit but returned safely.

The military then launched air strikes on Friday at a cave complex in the mountains on the border of the Dera Bugti and Kohlu districts where the chieftain was said to be hiding. There was little fighting on the ground.

The missile raid destroyed the entrance to the rocky hideout.

Special forces, according to various Pakistani daily reports, moved in yesterday to carry out a ‘cordon and search operation”.

The soldiers eventually secured the area and ascertained that Bugti was among the dead.

Sources said 24 Marri and Bugti tribesmen, including Nawab Bugti, were killed and 37 were injured. The injured have been taken into custody by the security forces.

However there is no information that whether the bodies would be handed over to their respective tribes for burial or they would remain in security officials’ custody.


Bugti killing: India may react today
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 27
The Government of India is keeping a close tab on the civil war-like situation in Balochistan and may come out with a stinging reaction on the development tomorrow.

The Tribune has been reporting on the simmering Balochistan cauldron for two years but the situation came to a boil yesterday when veteran Baloch nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti was killed, along with 37 armed tribals, in a military operation in Chalgri area of Bhamboor hills of Dera Bugti district. The 79-year-old Nawab Bugti, a former chief minister of Balochistan, had gone underground last year, joining militants who have been waging an armed insurgency for a long time.

The Indian reaction may well focus on how Balochistan was becoming a humanitarian crisis internationally. At a time when the West is obsessed with the Israel-Hezbollah war, the fact that Pakistan has been employing helicopter gunships, tanks, fighter aircraft and mortars against its own population in Balochistan for a long time now has gone unnoticed. India has reacted on Baluchistan situation earlier also, much to the chagrin of Pakistan.

Decision-makers in the Manmohan Singh government have preferred to hold back New Delhi’s official reaction on the situation in Balochistan until tomorrow when the subcontinent’s newspapers would report the news prominently.

India’s High Commissioner in Islamabad Shiv Shanker Menon met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here last evening. The killing of Nawab Bugti was not public knowledge when this meeting took place. There was no official word on the nature of discussions between the Prime Minister and Mr Menon. A well-informed surmise is that the Prime Minister’s meeting with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on the margins of the NAM summit in Cuba a fortnight later was discussed.

The meeting may also be important in view of the fact that Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran is scheduled to retire on September 30.

Though it is not official yet, diplomatic grapevine has it that the Indo-Pak peace process that hit a roadblock after the July 11 Mumbai blasts can be put back on the rails only by intervention of the highest political leadership of the two countries. Now having said that, will a hard reaction from India on Balochistan – supposedly an internal affair of Pakistan – cast a shadow on the likely Manmohan-Musharraf meeting in Cuba?

Knowledgeable circles here view this question as a double-edged sword which has the potential of cutting in two ways. One view is that any Indian reaction on Balochistan could further complicate the bilateral ties between the two nuclear neighbours.

Another view is that when Pakistan routinely talks of Kashmir and gives unsolicited advice to New Delhi on the need for talking to the Gilani-led faction of the Hurriyat Conference, will India not be within its right to raise the question of an unfolding humanitarian crisis in Balochistan.

As latest as yesterday, Gen Musharraf said that Pakistan would continue to extend diplomatic, political and moral support to Kashmiris for settlement of the longstanding dispute in accordance with their aspirations. He made this statement while talking to Raja Zulqarnain, the newly-elected President of the so-called Azad Jammu and Kashmir, who called on him at the Aiwan-i-Sadr.





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