Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Militant camp may hold clues to Taliban operations

GHAR-I-HIRA CAMP, Pakistan (AP) — Deep in the tunnel, a small wooden cabinet is the only piece of furniture, a syringe still in its plastic wrapper and a disposable razor scattered on the shelves. A pair of sky-blue pants lies on the rocky ground by the remnants of a threadbare sleeping mat.

"This was their safest haven," said Waseem Shafique, a Pakistani army major whose men stumbled onto this hand-hewn cave and the militant camp around it this month. "Nothing can touch them in here, it is safe from shelling, they cannot be seen — everything."

The hillside camp offers rare insight into conditions, tools and tactics being used by insurgents against government troops in the picturesque, northwestern Swat Valley for about the past two years.

It may also be a foreboding sign of the much tougher fight to come as the military moves into the grotto- and tunnel-ridden tribal region on the Afghan border, the scene of the next anti-Taliban operation and where battle-hardened militants have had much longer to dig in.

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