400 Taliban lay siege to Pakistani police station

Police in Kohat arrested seven Taliban extremists, and perhaps they could be forgiven for believing that 35 policemen would be enough to ensure their security.  When the Taliban showed up in almost battalion strength, however, the police found themselves cut off.  The army sent a battalion of its own, but not before the terrorists kidnapped three of the policemen and essentially captured Kohat (via See-Dubya):

A 400-strong force of Taliban militants laid siege to a police station in Hangu on Wednesday after the arrest of seven of their associates by security agencies.

According to officials, 35 policemen were present in the Doaba station when militants encircled it.

Heavily-armed Taliban militants were seen patrolling the Doaba bazaar and taking positions to counter any operation by security forces.

A military spokesman said that an army battalion had been sent from the Thall garrison to Doaba on the request of the provincial government.

The army will attempt to relieve the rest of the besieged policemen, but the three who tried to escape have been spirited away.  Electricity got cut off in the siege as well.  If the army doesn’t get there quickly, the rest of the police probably don’t stand much of a chance for survival, and the Taliban will hold this significant city, close to Peshawar.

Pakistan recently began pushing back against the Taliban, or at least some if the Taliban elements, due to a rising threat to Peshawar.   This shows that Pakistan wasn’t much wrong in its assessment.  The ability and desire to send a force of 400 to rescue 7 captured members demonstrates a strength that creates serious security issues for NWFP and everywhere else in Pakistan.  And the Gilani government only has itself to blame for legitimizing the Taliban terrorists through negotiations.

Hopefully, the new Pakistani government has learned its lesson.  Otherwise, the next city to get besieged may be Islamabad, and it will involve a lot more than 400 terrorists.

Update: The Taliban withdrew when the army arrived, and we hear more about the reason for the siege:

“The Taliban ended the siege of the police station around 3:00 am (2100 GMT) when troops started arriving,” local police station chief Jehangir Khan told AFP.

An intelligence official said the detainees were among the close circle of tribal warlord Baitullah Mehsud, who has been accused of plotting the assassination of ex-premier Benazir Bhutto. Mehsud denies the charge.

So these were high-value detainees — and apparently Pakistan still holds them.  Interesting….