No let-up in Orakzai fighting


Express May 17, 2010

PESHAWAR: At least 26 suspected Taliban militants and one security official were killed and 35 people from both sides were wounded in fresh fighting in the Orakzai tribal region on Monday, intelligence officials said.

On Sunday, security forces claimed that 37 militants were killed in air strikes and artillery shelling in different parts of Orakzai Agency. Fresh skirmishes took place in the Sturikhel area of southern part of the agency and the Dray Chautai area in Central Orakzai. Heavily-armed militants attacked checkpoints of the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) in Kharsha village in the Sturikhel area, an unnamed official told The Express Tribune.

One paramilitary soldier was killed and seven were injured in the attack. In the retaliatory attack by paramilitary troops, 10 insurgents were killed and as many injured. In other violence, hordes of militants attacked paramilitary checkpoints in the Dray Chautai area of Central Orakzai, the official said. Troops repulsed the attack, killing at least 16 militants and injuring 10 more.

Eight paramilitary troops also received injuries in the gunfight. Security forces claim to have killed hundreds of militants since a ground offensive was launched in Orakzai Agency on March 24. However, there has been no independent confirmation of the claim as journalists are not allowed to visit the area for security reasons. Hundreds of troops, backed by heavy artillery and airpower, moved into Orakzai Agency following intelligence reports that Taliban militants fleeing a military operation in South Waziristan Agency were regrouping in the region.

Since then security forces claim to have flushed out militants from southern parts of the agency. And out of hundreds of families displaced by fighting, some have been repatriated to their homes by political authorities. However, hundreds of other families are still living in camps in Kohat and Hangu districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. With Khyber Agency in the north, Frontier Regions Kohat in the east, Kohat district in the south and Kurram Agency in the west, Orakzai is the only of the seven tribal regions that does not share a border with Afghanistan.

Published in the Express Tribune, May 18th, 2010.

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