Four soldiers killed as army pushes to finish anti-Taliban offensive

Incident took place in the Ghaziza area of Datta Khel town, some 20 kilometres east of Miramshah,

Reuters July 05, 2015

DERA ISMAIL KHAN: Taliban ambushes killed at least four Pakistani soldiers in the northwest as the military made a new push into the militants' last major stronghold near the border with Afghanistan, ISPR said on Sunday.

At least four soldiers and 12 militants were killed in a clash on Sunday in troubled tribal belt where the army is fighting a major offensive against Taliban insurgents, the statement said.

The army said the incident took place in the Ghaziza area of Datta Khel town, some 20 kilometres (12 miles) east of Miramshah, the main town in the North Waziristan tribal district which borders Afghanistan.

"Fleeing terrorists also left behind three of their dead bodies. Four soldiers also embraced Shahadat (martyrdom) in the exchange of fire," it said in a statement.

A security official in the area confirmed the incident and casualties.

The conflict zone is remote and off-limits to journalists making it difficult to verify the army's claims, including the number and identity of those killed. The military says more than 2,700 militants have been killed since the launch of the major offensive.

The army began a major offensive in North Waziristan last summer to drive out Taliban and other extremist militants who launch attacks on government and civilian targets.

The army is meeting fierce resistance as it moves further into the lower-lying areas of the Shawal Valley, the Taliban's last stronghold, military officials said.

Read: 23 militants killed in North Waziristan, Khyber Agency airstrikes

The army chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif, visited troops on Friday and said the initial phase around the surrounding peaks of the Shawal Valley was successful and it was now time to begin a final push into the lower areas.

"We will not stop unless we achieve our end objective of a terror-free Pakistan," he said.

Intelligence officials said troops moving from both the North and South Waziristan sides into the Shawal Valley were encountering tough resistance from militants.

Read: For displaced Pakistanis to return home: fight the Taliban

The heavily forested ravines in the area are dotted with Taliban hideouts and the area is a key smuggling route into neighbouring Afghanistan.

The Taliban had controlled almost the entire northwestern region of North Waziristan before troops launched their offensive last year.

Many militants have fled to other parts of the country, and some into Afghanistan, complicating the US-backed Kabul government's fight against its own Taliban insurgency.