PARACHINAR/PESHAWAR: Security forces on Monday entered three main strongholds of militants in Kurram Agency and hoisted the national flag on government buildings, which the Taliban fighters had occupied four years ago.
Pakistan Army spokesman and Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Athar Abbas said the military operation in Kurram Agency had been launched formally on the demand of local people.
“The operation has been launched to clear the area of terrorists involved in acts of terrorism, including kidnapping and killing of local people, suicide attacks and blocking the road that connects Lower Kurram with Upper Kurram,” he said. Meanwhile, security officials and tribal sources said security forces had entered the areas considered to be strongholds of the militants. They said most of the government buildings had been reclaimed.
According to officials, the militants affiliated with Hakimullah Mahsud-led Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had captured all government installations, including schools and health centres in the area, for use for accommodation and training of fighters. Villagers said the militants had set up private prisons there to hold those kidnapped from other parts of the country.
The military sources said security forces did not face any resistance during their movement towards the difficult terrain in the mountains where the militants had set up sanctuaries.
The troops had secured the control of Gowaki, Dombaki and Manato areas in central Kurram, which are close to Orakzai Agency where security forces have been fighting against the militants for the last few years. Many villagers said the militants escaped to the neighbouring Orakzai and Khyber tribal region before security forces could launch the military operation,
The villagers said it was for the first time during the past four years that Pakistani troops reached parts of central Kurram and restored the writ of the state. “After taking control of these areas, the troops first hoisted the national flag on government buildings. It was for the first time Pakistani flags were seen flying on government buildings there,” said an official.
Pleading anonymity, the official said the Taliban were not against the Pakistani flag, but they didn’t allow government functionaries to serve there after occupying all government installations there. “For more than three years, there was no physical presence of the government in most parts of central Kurram. The government had left the people at the mercy of militants,” he added. The displaced villagers, who reached Sadda town in lower Kurram where the government had set up a camp for the uprooted families, said they had heard long-range artillery guns firing shells towards the remote mountainous areas of central Kurram where the militants were reportedly hiding.
Also, gunship helicopters were seen flying towards the area and pounding suspected positions of militants. There was, however, no word about the losses suffered by the militants during the two days of operation. Government officials said the military operation had forced 4,000 tribal families to flee their homes for relatively safer places in Sadda.