Pakistan's Army Says Attack On Militants 'Imminent'

A bombing Monday at the office of the U.N. World Food Program in Pakistan's capital killed three people and injured a half-dozen others. The attack comes as the Pakistani army says it is preparing to launch a decisive offensive in the tribal area along the border with Afghanistan in the militant stronghold of South Waziristan.

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

Americans debating more troops for Afghanistan got a reminder today. It's a reminder that the threat is strong in a nearby nation where U.S. troops can't go. A bomb killed several people in the capital of Pakistan. It struck an office of the World Food Program.

INSKEEP: The U.S. depends on Pakistan to fight off its own insurgents, and we'll check on their progress in this part of the program. We'll ask Pakistan's foreign minister about the search for the Taliban's top leader. We begin with Pakistan's promise to launch a military offensive along the border.

Here's NPR's Julie McCarthy.

JULIE MCCARTHY: Since the summer, the Pakistan military has been preparing for a full-fledged offensive in South Waziristan, an enclave controlled by Pakistani and foreign militants, including al-Qaida. Aerial and artillery bombardment has targeted their hideouts. Routes in and out of the agency that borders Afghanistan have been sealed. Pakistan's military says a decisive ground battle will be launched in the coming days. The army is also watching for signs of disarray in the militant camp. Rival factions were said to be vying for control of the al-Qaida linked Tehrik-e-Taliban after its leader, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed by an unmanned U.S. drone missile in August. Hakimullah Mehsud, reported to be Baitullah's successor, told the media this weekend that the drone attacks would be avenged.

The United States has wanted Pakistan to launch a full-scale military operation along its lawless border area to take the pressure off of U.S. and NATO troops just across the border in Afghanistan. Pakistani government authority has all but evaporated in the region. A series of failed military operations in recent years has only emboldened the militants in an area where fierce fighters have vexed would-be conquerors over the centuries. There's been no claim of responsibility for today's attack in Islamabad that has shaken the United Nations operations there, but the bombing indicates the presence of militants capable of continuing to launch deadly attacks inside Pakistan.

Analysts say that an offensive, if launched, would almost certainly meet stiff resistance. The offensive is described by senior military officials only as eminent, and the army needs a final approval from the government before going ahead.

Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Lahore.

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