Zar-b-Azb’s new phase: Army preparing for final push in anti-terror fight

Troops are now positioning around Shawal

Afp June 30, 2015

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s army is preparing for a final push in the coming weeks in its fight against militants, but there are concerns that rights are being rolled back in the name of defeating terror.

A year on from the launch of a major offensive to eradicate strongholds of Taliban and other militants in North Waziristan, the military says the job is 90 per cent done.

It is now positioning troops around Shawal Valley, according to locals and security sources.

The army says it has killed more than 2,700 militants since the launch of the offensive, Zarb-e-Azb, last June, and destroyed more than 800 of their hideouts.

A senior military official directly linked to the offensive said the army was gearing up for the final push and using air strikes before moving in ground troops.

“We are turning hard targets into soft through aerial bombing because forces expect a resistance in Shawal,” he told AFP. The troop movements were confirmed by locals, though some tribal elders warned militants were slipping across the porous mountainous border into Afghanistan.

“Up to two dozen militants are leaving the area every day and around 200 militants recently moved into part of Afghan territory,” elder Ajab Khan told AFP.

He warned the remaining areas where TTP fighters are holed up will be difficult fighting terrain – mountainous and thickly forested.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2015. 


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