As Pakistani troops made a new push into Shawal Valley, the last major stronghold of Taliban militants in North Waziristan Agency, the military claimed on Sunday that it had killed at least a dozen insurgents elsewhere in the agency.
Taliban militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting soldiers who were conducting a search operation in the Datta Khel area Sunday morning. Four soldiers were slain in the pre-dawn attack mounted by the militants.
Security forces embarked on retaliatory action immediately after the attack, the military’s media wing, the ISPR, said in a statement. Twelve militants were killed in the ensuing fighting, it added.
Three servicemen lost their lives on the spot and another succumbed to his injuries later. The casualties were airlifted to the Combined Military Hospital in nearby Bannu Town where medics identified the slain soldiers as Saeedur Rahman, Muhammad Salim and Fazal Amin.
The Pakistan Army began a major offensive in North Waziristan, codenamed Zarb-e-Azb, in mid-June last year to drive out Taliban and other extremist militants who launch attacks on government and civilian targets. So far, 2,800-plus militants have been killed and their central control and command structure and bomb-making factories decimated.
Most parts of North Waziristan, the erstwhile stronghold of the Taliban, have been cleansed of extremists and repatriation of displaced tribesmen to these areas is under way. Now, the remaining militants are holed up in Shawal Valley.
Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif visited troops at forward-most locations on Friday and said the initial phase around the surrounding peaks of 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.
The deadly attack came a day after militants ambushed a military convoy in the Pir Ghar area of Shawal, killing two soldiers and wounding three others, intelligence officials told Reuters on condition of anonymity. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
The intelligence officials added that troops moving from both the North and South Waziristan sides into Shawal Valley were encountering tough resistance from militants. The heavily forested ravines in the area are dotted with Taliban hideouts and the area is a key smuggling route into neighbouring Afghanistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th, 2015.