Pakistan Under Pressure From Wave of Attacks
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Update: Pakistani officials say the military has begun a ground offensive against the Taliban in South Waziristan. The army said about twenty-eight thousand soldiers were in place Saturday to root out an estimated ten thousand Taliban fighters. An earlier story follows:
This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.
Two weeks of suicide bombings and other attacks have shaken Pakistan. The interior minister says, "The enemy has started a guerrilla war."
Taliban leaders in Pakistan say the campaign is in reaction to an expected army offensive against militants in South Waziristan. Militants are launching attacks against government and security targets from bases in tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan.
On Thursday, President Obama signed into law a civilian aid bill for Pakistan. It offers seven and a half billion dollars over five years to improve health, education and security.
But in Pakistan, opposition parties and the powerful military have strongly criticized the legislation. Last week the military objected to language suggesting that it supported militant groups.
Now, the civilian government in Islamabad says the United States has taken steps to ease Pakistani concerns.
American lawmakers said the language of the aid package could not be changed. But on Wednesday, they told Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Washington that it does not place any conditions on Pakistan.
The United States considers Pakistan an important ally in the global fight against terrorism. One issue related to that fight is how to deal with the growing threat of terrorism from within the United States.
Robert Mueller, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, spoke last month at a Senate hearing. He said officials have discovered a number of plots in recent months involving "homegrown extremists." He also expressed concern about Americans and other Westerners traveling to Pakistan and Somalia for terrorist training.
The government says a suspect arrested last month, Najibullah Zazi, traveled to Pakistan last year to train in weapons and explosives. Officials say he bought materials to build explosive devices and traveled to New York City on September tenth as part of planning for an attack.
Najibullah Zazi denies any link to terrorism. He came to the United States ten years ago and is a legal permanent resident from Afghanistan. He was arrested in Colorado, where he drove an airport bus.
This week, there were reports that he had contact with al-Qaida leadership. Intelligence officials said the head of al-Qaida's operations in Afghanistan used a middleman to communicate with him.
Attorney General Eric Holder has called the case one of the most serious threats since the attacks of September eleventh, two thousand one.
In another case, federal officials are investigating the disappearances of more than twenty young Somali men. They were living in the state of Minnesota. They may have joined al-Shabab, an anti-government militia in Somalia tied to al-Qaida.
Shirwa Ahmed was a naturalized American citizen living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He became the first known American suicide bomber last October when he blew himself up in Somalia.
And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. I'm Bob Doughty.