As operation Zarb-e-Azb rages on for the third consecutive day, 28 more militants were killed in fresh air raids and artillery shelling in the Mirali subdivision of North Waziristan Agency on Tuesday.
Warplanes and helicopter gunships targeted suspected hideouts of militants in Hassu Khel, Haider Khel and Khushali Tori Khel areas of Mirali, an official of the security forces said. He added that heavy artillery was also used against the bases of militants.
According to the military’s media wing, six hideouts of militants, including a training camp and an IEDs (improvised explosives devices)-making factory were destroyed in the Hassu Khel blitz. “Twenty-five foreign and local terrorists were killed in the strikes,” said a statement released by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).
In a separate encounter, at least three suspected terrorists were killed when they attempted to flee a cordoned off area in Miramshah. One soldier was also injured in the exchange of fire. With the latest fatalities, the total number of suspected terrorists killed so far in Operation Zarb-e-Azb has reached 218.
The ISPR statement said the cordon around all hideouts of militants including in the towns of Mirali and Miramshah had been further tightened and reinforced.
However, it clarified that a full-scale ground offensive has yet to begin as the security forces have so far only laid a cordon around the hideouts. “No operation in the built-up area has been started so far to ensure that no terrorist can escape the cordon and all innocent civilians are safely evacuated after their detailed verification,” it added.
The military maintained that necessary logistical and administrative arrangements for IDPs (internally displaced persons) had been completed by the North Waziristan political administration and Fata Disaster Management Authority (FDMA). Aerial surveillance of the operational area with the help of own assets also continued, it added.
Army chief calls off Sri Lanka trip
Army Chief General Raheel Sharif cancelled his scheduled trip to Sri Lanka due to the ongoing military operation in North Waziristan. The chief military spokesperson said the army chief was to travel to Colombo on Tuesday on a four-day trip.
US increase border surveillance
In Washington, the top US military commander in Afghanistan said that the Americans have increased surveillance over the Pak-Afghan border in the wake of the Waziristan operation. So far officials haven’t seen militants fleeing the offensive.
Marine General Joseph Dunford told The Associated Press in an interview that the US is not coordinating military operations with Pakistan along the border, but officials have increased the amount of intelligence-sharing with the Afghans. He said the Afghan troops and US forces in that region are ready for any aftereffects of the operation, including militants seeking refuge in Afghanistan.
The US has long pressed Pakistan to root out militants who have found safe haven in North Waziristan Agency.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 18th, 2014.