Warplanes strafed suspected hideouts of terrorists in areas adjacent to Miramshah, the main town of North Waziristan Agency. The military claims that a large number of foreign fighters were killed in the air raid.
Fighter jets were scrambled when terrorists put up resistance. “On facing fire and resistance from inside Miramshah Town and Boya village, air strikes were launched to flush out the terrorists,” the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of the Pakistani military, said in a statement on Saturday.
“Five terrorists’ hideouts, caves and a huge cache of arms and ammunition were destroyed and scores of terrorists were killed in the early morning strikes, silencing the firers,” it added. “Most of the terrorists killed in strikes were Uzbeks.”
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), an al Qaeda affiliate, has had a large presence in the tribal belt since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
In a related incident, one soldier died when an improvised explosive device (IED) went off during a search and clearance operation.
On June 15, the military launched a long-awaited offensive in North Waziristan, aimed at wiping out militant strongholds in the area which had been dubbed as a ‘centre of gravity’ for local and foreign militants.
Sources said several hideouts of militants have been destroyed in the ongoing ground operation and air strikes, particularly in the surrounding areas of Miramshah. So far, 386 militants and 20 soldiers have been killed in the offensive, according to the military.
A military official told The Express Tribune that nearly half of Miramshah has been purged of militants but villages on the outskirts of Miramshah have yet to be cleared. “We cannot give a timeframe for the completion of the ground operation,” he added. “The army is facing some firing incidents, rocket and explosives attacks, but so far there has been no major resistance.”
Military officials say Operation Zarb-e-Azb is well planned and it’s progressing according to the plan. They say local tribesmen are willingly assisting the armed forces in eliminating terrorists. Over 570, 000 tribesmen have shifted to Bannu, where they are properly taken care of at shelter camps set up by the government.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th, 2014.