Nine terrorists and four soldiers were killed in a bloody clash in a mountainous region on the confluence of borders between North and South Waziristan tribal regions on Saturday.
The deadly gunfight took place in the Pir Ghar area of Shawal Valley, the last stronghold of Taliban militants. Pakistani troops have cleansed most parts of North Waziristan Agency of terrorists in an operation, codenamed Zarb-e-Azb. The offensive was launched in mid-June last year after a shaky peace process of the government collapsed and Taliban militants mounted a brazen attack on Karachi’s international airport.
After softening the targets with air strikes, Pakistani troops are now closing in on terrorists holed up in Shawal Valley.
On July 3, army chief General Raheel Sharif visited the forward-most bases in North Waziristan and appreciated the troops on the ‘successful completion of the preliminary phase’ of the Shawal operation. He pledged that “we will not stop until we achieve our end objective of a terror-free Pakistan”.
About Saturday’s clash, a security official told The Express Tribune that terrorists ambushed a military vehicle in the Pir Ghar area. Subsequently, troops launched a search operation which led to a fierce gunfight between terrorists and security forces, he added.
According to the military’s media wing, the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), four security officials and nine militants were killed in the clash.
The firefight came four days after a deadly gunfight in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan. Terrorists detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting soldiers who were conducting a search operation in Datta Khel on July 6. Four soldiers were slain in the pre-dawn attack.
In a retaliatory military action, 12 terrorists were eliminated. A day earlier two soldiers had been killed when terrorists ambushed a military convoy in the Pir Ghar area.
Shawal is a strategic valley close to the border with Afghanistan.
The heavily forested ravines in the area are dotted with redoubts of the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and the area is a key smuggling route into neighbouring Afghanistan.
The army has positioned it troops in Shawal for a final push in the country’s fight against militants.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2015.