Akbar Bugti killed in army operation
* 21 security personnel and 37 rebels killed
* Balach Marri and two of Bugti’s grandsons among dead
* Operation against terrorists will continue: ISPR
By Rana Qaisar, Sarfaraz Ahmed and Malik Siraj Akbar
ISLAMABAD/KARACHI/ QUETTA: Nawab Akbar Bugti, leader of the Bugti tribe, president of the Jamhoori Watan Party and the driving force behind the anti-government rebellion in Balochistan, was killed in a massive military operation in the Bhambore Hills, an area between the cities of Kohlu and Dera Bugti.
“Yes, Nawab Bugti has been killed in the operation,” Federal Information Minister Mohammad Ali Durrani said on Saturday. According to reports, President Pervez Musharraf was told just before 12am on Sunday that Nawab Bugti had been killed. As many as 21 army commandos and 37 rebels had also been killed in the same operation, which targeted 50 to 80 of Nawab Bugti’s closest family members and top commanders. Reports also indicated that Balochistan Liberation Army Chief Balach Marri and Nawab Bugti’s grandsons Brahamdagh and Mir Ali Bugti were also killed in the fighting. Nawab Bugti’s location was discovered three days ago and security forces had besieged the hills where he was in hiding. Sources said that Nawab Bugti’s whereabouts were established by monitoring satellite phone intercepts.
“It is presumed that Akbar Bugti and a number of other terrorists have been killed,” an official statement issued at 2am said. It said that heavy fire was exchanged, which resulted in a cave-in, which buried all those inside, including Nawab Bugti and a large number of his top aides. An ISPR statement said that two army helicopters, flying over the general area of Tartani in Kohlu on August 23, were fired upon from the ground and one helicopter was damaged. Another chopper was then dispatched to investigate and was also hit, but returned safely.
According to AFP, security officials said that the military launched air strikes on Friday against 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, they said.
The missile raid destroyed the entrance to the rocky hideout and special forces moved in on Saturday to carry out a ‘cordon and search operation’, one security official told AFP. Heavy fighting broke out as the insurgents returned fire, killing several soldiers including the leader of the commando team, the official said.
The soldiers eventually secured the area and ascertained that Bugti was among the dead, he added, without giving further details.
Sources said that around 24 Marri and Bugti tribesmen, including Nawab Bugti, were killed and 37 injured. The injured have been taken into custody by security forces, sources said. However there is no information on whether the corpses would be handed over to their respective tribes for burial or they would remain in security officials’ custody.
Six officers were also among the 21 security force personnel killed, an official told Reuters.