At least 76 suspected terrorists were killed in fresh air strikes in North Waziristan Agency on Tuesday amidst army chief General Raheel Sharif’s reiteration that the military would never abandon the tribal areas without restoring normalcy there.
Military warplanes targeted hideouts of terrorists in North Waziristan Monday afternoon, the military’s media wing, the ISPR, said in a statement. “Fifty-three terrorists, including some foreigners, were killed in precise aerial strikes ahead of Datta Khel,” it said. “Six terrorist hideouts, an ammunition dump and seven explosives-laden vehicles were also destroyed.”
In the evening, fighter jets again strafed bases of terrorists in Datta Khel area of North Waziristan, killing 23 more terrorists, the ISPR said in a second statement released hours after the first. “A total of 76 terrorists were killed in aerial strikes in North Waziristan today,” it added.
A military operation, codenamed Zarb-e-Azb, has been ongoing in North Waziristan since June 15, last year. The offensive was started after a moribund peace initiative with the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) fell apart and after Taliban gunmen mounted a brazen attack on the Karachi airport.
The military claims to have purged 90% area of militants, killing more than 2,000 militants in the process and dismantling their command and control centre and ammunition factories.
Army chief General Raheel Sharif visited Mohmand and Bajaur tribal regions on Monday where he reiterated that the military operations would continue in the tribal belt until peace was restored in the troubled region.
“The military operations will continue until peace is restored from Bajaur to Shawal [in North Waziristan] and from Chital to Gwadar,” he said while addressing troops on the occasion. He added that after these operations there would be no terrorism and there would be no one to claim responsibility for terrorist attacks.
The army chief was given a detailed briefing on progress of stabilisation operations, including the ongoing development projects by army engineers, according to the ISPR. He appreciated the professionalism, dedication and sacrifices of army troops in fighting terrorism and bringing stability in Mohmand Agency.
The military had launched an operation, codenamed Brekhna, in Mohmand Agency in 2011 to purge the region of militants. Most parts of the agency have been cleared of terrorists since. Now, the army is focusing on rehabilitation and development of the region.
The army chief stressed the need to follow a comprehensive and uniform reconstruction and rehabilitation policy across the tribal belt after the areas have been cleared of terrorists. “By educating the tribal youth and providing economic opportunities to them, [roots of] terrorism will be eliminated from the tribal belt,” he added.
Appreciating the tribal brethren for playing a ‘significant role’ in expelling terrorists from their areas, Gen Raheel reiterated that “we will never abandon these areas without fully restoring them to functional normalcy”.
Gen Raheel also hoped that the operation recently launched by Afghan security forces against militants on their side of the border would help check cross-border terrorism. He underlined the need for further enhancing border coordination between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The Afghan National Army initiated the operation in northern Kunar province that borders Mohmand and Bajaur agencies following the December 16 deadly rampage by Taliban gunmen at the Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar. And Afghan Ambassador in Islamabad Janan Mosazai told journalists in Karachi on Sunday that 200 militants have been killed in the operation thus far.
Meanwhile, the ISPR said that an eight-member Afghan military delegation, led by Afghan Border Police Commander Lt Gen Shafiq Fazli, held talks with Lt Gen Nasir Khan Janjua, the commander of the Southern Command. During the meeting, they discussed issues related to border security and ongoing operations being carried out by the two countries on their respective side of the border.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th, 2015.