21 killed despite military’s victory claim

Published: June 3, 2010

Attacks occurred a day after the military declared an end to the operation.

PESHAWAR: At least 20 suspected militants and a solider were killed in Orakzai tribal region on Wednesday, a day after the military declared victory and announced an end to the operation.

Security officials said at least 10 alleged militants were killed and four others injured as helicopter gunships targeted militant hideouts in Kasha, Teri and Toti Mela. Security forces claimed to destroy four militant hideouts in the attack.

It is impossible, however, to verify casualty statistics because the area is closed to journalists.

In another incident, suspected militants fired rockets and mortar shells on a security forces’ checkpoint in Shahukhel area of Hangu district, officials said. Security forces retaliated with heavy fire, killing at least 10 suspected militants and injuring two. The attack came early Wednesday morning and the exchange of fire continued for around five hours. One security personnel was killed in this attack, officials said.

“The attack was launched by a group of 15-20 militants,” local administration official Sajjad Ahmed Ahmed told a wire news agency AFP.

The clashes came hours after Chief of Army Staff’s General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani’s visit to the Orakzai Agency, when he termed the Orakzai Operation as “successful” and said normalcy would return to the area soon.

Meanwhile, military spokesperson Major General Athar Abbas said that major operations in Orakzai were over, although “stabilisation” operations may continue. “There are very small pockets of resistance which are being cleared, but the major population centres have been cleared and that includes the passes that were connected to the Tirah valley in the north,” AFP quoted him as saying.

Separately, suspected militants torched six houses belonging to Levies Force personnel in Ismailzai tehsil of Upper Orakzai Agency late on Tuesday. According to local sources, the attack came in the Salo and Adhughar areas of Rabiakhel tribe.

The Orakzai operation that started on March 24 has primarily targeted militants who escaped from South Waziristan after a military offensive in the area last year. – ADDITIONAL INPUT BY AFP

Published in the Express Tribune, June 3rd, 2010.

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