BANNU: When Pakistan Air Force jets bombed a village in North Waziristan last week, it was described as yet another victory over Taliban insurgents in an ongoing military offensive.
However, a counter-claim has emerged with some villagers alleging that there are civilians among the dead in that particular incident.
"Today early morning 35 fleeing terrorists were killed through aerial strikes in Shawal Valley," said an ISPR statement on July 16.
The press statement was part of a regular series of updates sent out by the army since the operation in North Waziristan tribal district, aimed at clearing Taliban strongholds, began in mid-June.
Almost 500 militants are said to have been killed in the fighting so far, which has been enthusiastically backed by the country's major political parties and media, who see it as a means of tackling a decade-long insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives.
But the official toll has been impossible to verify, raising questions among rights activists over the offensive's true human cost.
The alleged death of civilians has become a focus of rising anger among tribesmen who have managed to flee to border towns inside Pakistan, and who on Monday threatened to march on Islamabad if the operation does not end soon.
The bombardment in the Shawal Valley began just before 1:00 am, lighting up the sky as residents of Zoi Saidgai village sat down to eat their pre-dawn Ramadan meal.
"It continued for hours, targeting 11 houses," Malik Mirzal Khan, an elder who claimed he lost his daughter and brother in the strikes, told AFP from a payphone in his village.
"A single bomb dropped from the plane blew up two mud houses and the explosions could be heard 30 kilometres away," Khan, part of a high-level peace council that attempted to avert the government offensive before it began, said.
Noor Wali Khan, a 27-year-old truck driver, had similar claims to make.
However, the military has so far refused to comment on the matter on the record.
However, a senior security official speaking, requesting anonymity, has said those who were killed, if any, had plenty of warning to evacuate.
"If a terrorist is living with his family and does not abandon them even during the time of operation and we have solid ground intelligence about the terrorist and we target his hideout, what would you call it, collateral damage or what?" the source asked.
"If a terrorist is using his family as human shields what do you expect the military to do?"
Khan, the elder, said his village was never informed it would be a target.
"In the meetings with military and civil officials, we had been assured to stay home as our areas were declared safe and free from militant control," he said, adding that he had conveyed the same message to the local population and had forbidden them from leaving their own houses.
According to the residents, no rescue officials were able to reach the remote area.
Wali Muhammad, a 28-year-old shopkeeper, said that the nature of Wednesday's strikes meant the facts would eventually be known.
"You can't cover up the sun with a finger," he said, using a Pashto expression that roughly translates to: "The truth will come out".
Some 500 villagers turned out for funeral prayers to mourn the dead.
In Bannu, where tribesmen held a jirga Monday, elders said the Shawal Valley attack was not an isolated incident. Malik Mirzal Khan, the elder from Shawal, demanded an investigation into the air strike.
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@4shad same goes for Philistine people, why they are not vacating after so many warnings & leaflets?
The people who are justifying and comparing the Pakistani Operation with the Israeli Massacre need to get there brains retuned. First of all, the isreali death toll as a result of Hamas rockets is very much less compared to the number of deaths caused by various bomb attacks by the Pakistani Taliban(based in North Waziristan).
Just to give u a brief idea, there have been only 28 israeli deaths since 2001 due to rockets fired by Hamas, whereas, the death toll from Taliban bomb attacks since 2001 has been more than 50000 innocent Pakistani civilians!
These 2 situations are vastly different. The death statistics give us an idea that the israeli operation is actually a GENOCIDE of Gazan civilians whereas the Pakistani one is a fight for their survival!
"we had been assured to stay home as our areas were declared safe and free from militant control", 200% lie. Shawal Valley was never free of militant control and locals were supporting terrorist. It is not possible, somebody comes from other place, do IED blast or suicidal and nobody knows him. Most of them are local misguided uneducated 15-20 years old madrasa students who are after "Horian in Jannat". India, America, Russia, Afghanistan, Israel all are activated to save their pay rolled terrorist. This news showing their desperation. This is now or never time for pakistan
Please bother to read the article before spewing ** “In the meetings with military and civil officials, we had been assured to stay home as our areas were declared safe and free from militant control,” he said, adding that he had conveyed the same message to the local population and had forbidden them from leaving their own houses.
Indians who are making analogy of TTP militants with Palestine are either completely irrational or just trolling for the sake of it so either way, they are ignorant. Comparing their UN chartered conflict with Talibans is like comparing apples with oranges.
@Great Deception Media: Which news channels - sorry there are no news channels in Pakistan - yes there are some channels who are trying to be news channels... but actually they are all entertainment channels and nothing else - just to earn money and that's all.
Zog even karachi has been sheltering ttp please ask me why 20 million ppl been sheltering them?? Does that mean that the army can aerial bomb karachi and if innocent ppl die its there own fault for allowing ttp to live there???? Please do not blame the tribesman for this if the great army of pakistan is struggling to handle ttp then what chance have the tribemans got?
Thank you for understanding - IDF
@Batool, a better answer would have been insisting on better information gathering and stress on ground operation rather than creating reason and that getting legitimacy from the "bad guys"!!!, you cant reason for a wrong thing because the enemy did the same...then what is the difference?..all army personnel are our brothers and brothers can do mistakes, nothing wrong in accepting for the sake of correcting and not repeating the same mistake!!!
Give me a break. You sound just like an Israeli. Lets re-word your sentence.
Civillian deaths in Gaza are highly regretable and need to be investigated.
But the Gazans need to meet some of the familes of the victims who have been shelled by (Iran and Syrian funded) Hamas sheltering in Gaza. Why have they been sheltering these savages?
Their lives are also precious.
When Army is constantly telling the local population to vacate then why they are not leaving?. Also Today I have seen many twitter profiles of mostly Afghans and ANP fanbase and they have started stealing pictures from the Israel-Palestine conflict and are trying to paint them as pictures of Waziristan conflict by falsely labeling them.
"“America is our enemy, but they have never taken such cruel action against us which we had witnessed from the Pakistani government — our own country.”" +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ I salute ET for calling a spade a spade.
Most of ultra nationalist are commenting that it is the people of Waziristan responsible for the deaths of civilian in mainland Pakistan. This is not true. The state invited. sponsored & trained these terrorist to do what they are doing. Ordinary people of Waziristan have no say in this terror business, neither they have the power to stop these terrorist. Shame on political parties that they cant say a word against the killing of 37 innocent women, children & elderly. Islamist are also silent. The toll in ghaza today is 7 while in waziristan is 37. These people were asked to stay in the village only to be bombed.
Where is their protest when any random suicide bomber blows himself out and kills tens of people in their beloved valley ? Regardless of collateral damage, operation should continue with full force be it in NW, Raiwand village, Karachi,Islamabad or anywhere else.
It's remarkable how similar the comments justifying civilian deaths from Pakistanis and Israelis are. Worth thinking about.
Civillian deaths in NWA are highly regretable and need to be investigated.
But the tribesmen need to meet some of the familes of the 60,000 victims who have been murdered by (Indian funded) TTP sheltering in NWA. Why have they been sheltering these savages?
Their lives are also precious.
no woman or children died because of an air strike. SHUTDOWN ALL NEWS CHANNEL until Zarb-e-Azb is complete .
My best understanding of this... When someone trained in Waziristan comes to Karachi with a mission to apparently target "establishment and enforcement agencies", most victims killed are innocent Pakistanis minding their own business. Similarly when army is targeting these places, more or less victims are innocent Pakistanis of this area with no association with violence. Who deliberately targets the innocence? The army or the so called bad guys from this area? Whoever aims to cause most damage and kill more people, they are in the wrong which is clearly not the army, army told you to leave, there is no warning for people in Peshawar or Quetta or Karachi..having said this....no innocent life should ever be lost and may Allah give sabr to those who lost their family members, and grant them jannah, ameen
And all those so anti-operation Pakistanis and ones with religious parties association also. You supported Bangladesh war in 1971, were they not Muslims??? Were the victims not innocent Muslims killed by army? I'm saying this because my grandfather faught in that war (alongside the wars against India) and my cousin is fighting now. Do NOT blame the army or soldiers for this mess. Blame yourself as people who let Pakistan come in to this mess now.
I don't understand why people are not vacating after so many warnings