Another 16 suspected terrorists were killed on Sunday when Pakistan Air Force fighter jets targeted their hideouts in the Mirali town of North Waziristan Agency.
Seven hideouts of terrorists along with explosives and ammunition dumps were also destroyed in the airstrikes, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement.
A military official said the civilian population had been evacuated. However, announcements were still being made on Sunday in an effort to ensure that no civilians were left in the area before the start of a ground offensive.
The official, who asked to remain anonymous, said that the troops continued to lay a siege around hideouts of terrorists to prevent them from fleeing Operation Zarb-e-Azb. When asked, the official said security forces were ready to launch the ground offensive and were only waiting for the nod from their high command.
In reply to a question, the official refused to give any timeframe for the completion of the operation saying the military would not divulge operational details because doing so could help militants prepare accordingly.
The military is expecting to face ‘stiff resistance’ from the militants once the ground assault is launched. The official said Operation Zarb-e-Azb was more challenging because of Waziristan’s difficult terrain as compared to other tribal agencies. “The presence of hardcore foreign militants is also another factor that makes this operation highly daunting,” commented another official. However, he said the army had carefully worked out its plan before entering the region.
The official said North Waziristan had been isolated from other tribal areas and the Afghan border so that no militant could find an easy escape.
The first stage of the operation, which was to strangulate the militant strongholds, had already been completed. The next phase would be to clear the area from militants and establish the writ of the state.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2014.