Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Militants Declare Ceasefire as Pakistan General among Eight Dead in Chopper Crash

On Wednesday, a Pakistani helicopter crashed in the Southern Waziristan area, killing 8, including Maj. Gen. Javed Sultan, the commanding officer of the Kohat garrison. An army spokesman told the BBC that the copter crashed because of a "technical fault" near the Afghan border. The News echoed the BBC News report by citing statements by chief military spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas. The cause of the crash is "not believed to have been caused by hostile fire," he asserted, although Reuters noted the incident was a "setback" for Pakistan forces. South Waziristan has been wracked by fierce fighting between Taliban-linked militants and Pakistani security forces in recent weeks.

In related news, newswires reported that the Tehreek-e-Taliban, an umbrella organization for Taliban-linked militants, declared an "indefinite" ceasefire in fighting against the Pakistani military. According to the Associated Press, Maulvi Mohammed Umar, a "purported" spokesman for the militant coalition, said the ceasefire was declared following talks with the government. Umar told the AFP, "We have announced ceasefire for an indefinite period because the government stopped attacking us." However, sources reported that Pakistani military spokesman Abbas "denied knowledge of any talks" and said they had "no formal communication" with the militants regarding a ceasefire. Abbas told the AFP, There is no formal information conveyed to us from them about a ceasefire. When they stopped firing we thought it was because of the severe weather conditions in the region...Our position is very clear -- the operation has not ended, it will continue as long as the objectives the operations are achieved." According to the AP, "...any agreement by Pakistan to a cease-fire would likely be frowned on by its Western allies. A cease-fire in North Waziristan in September 2006, which collapsed the following July, was widely seen as giving Taliban and Al Qaeda a freer hand to stage cross-border attacks into Afghanistan and expand their reach inside Pakistan."

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