The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, an al Qaeda ally, killed a senior Pakistani Army general and two soldiers in a roadside bombing in the northwestern district of Dir today. The Taliban claimed credit for the attack as the government continues to pursue a peace deal with the terror group.
Major General Sanaullah Niazi, a lieutenant colonel, and a soldier were killed “in an IED blast today near Pak-Afghan Border in Upper Dir,” the Inter-Services Public Relations, the military’s press office, announced on its website.
“Major General Sanaullah was on a visit to forward post near Pak-Afghan border since last couple of days,” the ISPR statement continued. “After completing visits, he was on his way back when an IED planted by Terrorists on the road side blasted which resulted into shahadat [mertyrdom] of Major General Sanaullah, Lieutenant Colonel Tauseef and Lance Naik Irfan Sattar.”
Sanaullah served as the senior military commander in Swat, the northwestern district which was ruled by the Taliban from 2007 to 2009 after the government negotiated multiple peace deals with Taliban commander Mullah Fazlullah. Lieutenant Colonel Tauseef commanded the 33 Baloch Regiment.
Today’s attack was likely carried out by forces loyal to Fazlullah, who also commands Taliban fighters in Dir and in the greater Malakand Division, a region comprising the northern districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Fazlullah, who is also known as Mullah Radio for his radical sermons that are broadcast throughout the northwest, is a senior Taliban commander who has opposed polio vaccinations. He has vowed to continue the fight to regain control of Swat and the surrounding districts. Last year, he ordered the assassination of Malala Yousufzai, the young schoolgirl who passionately spoke out against the Taliban in Swat, and accused her of violating sharia, or Islamic law.
The assassination of Sanaullah took place on the same day the provincial government announced that the military would withdraw its forces from the Malakand Division beginning in October. The military launched an offensive to clear the Malakand Division of the Taliban in late 2009 after the group violated the terms of the peace agreement and advanced to within 60 miles of the capital city of Islamabad.
The military wrested control of Swat, Shangla, and Buner from the Taliban after months of heavy fighting, but failed to kill or capture most of the Taliban’s top leaders. Many of the Taliban’s forces withdrew from the contested districts into more remote areas such as Dir or across the border in Afghanistan’s Taliban-controlled province of Kunar.
The government continues to pursue a peace deal with the Taliban even as its soldiers are coming under fire throughout the northwest. In the past 24 hours, the Taliban killed two soldiers in North Waziristan and a soldier in Bannu, and two members of a pro-government militia in Bajaur.