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June 16, 2014

Ground operation launched in NWA

June 16, 2014

PESHAWAR: The government finally launched a full-scale ground operation in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) after fighter jets pounded suspected militant hideouts, killing 80 militants, including foreigners.
According to ISPR, the military operation Zarb-e-Azb was launched against local and foreign terrorists.According to the military authorities, it was named after the prominent sword prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had used in two famous, wars, the Jang-e-Badr and Jang-e-Uhad, against the enemies of Islam.“It would be a comprehensive operation against the terrorists who had established sanctuaries in North Waziristan,” a military official said requesting not to be named.
Some media reports quoting security sources suggested that Uzbek commander and the mastermind of the Karachi airport attack Abu Rehman was also among the extremists killed in the air strikes.
The ISPR said a ground operation has been launched in NWA on the directives of the government. The security forces have besieged Miranshah and Mir Ali, the two main towns of North Waziristan. However, according to ISPR, civilians have been allowed to leave the area and surrender points have been established at various spots for the militants who are willing to surrender. The ISPR said the displaced people will be provided transport and shelter.
The ISPR said the operation has been launched against the local and foreign militants who were using North Waziristan for terror activities. Afghan forces have been asked to seal the border to stop the fleeing militants, and aerial surveillance has also been conducted in the area. The local tribespeople will be informed about further steps through announcements.
According to ISPR, the army has been given the task of eliminating the terrorists. It said the process of identifying terrorists’ sanctuaries has been completed.Though the government and military authorities made a formal announcement about the launching of the military operation on Sunday

evening, the offensive had already began as Pakistan Air Force fighter jets had bombed Deegan village of Boya tehsil, 25 kilometers west of North Waziristan’s headquarters Miranshah, early in the day.
Military authorities claimed that the fighter jets had hit the sanctuaries of the militants and killed 80 militants, including foreign fighters.The ISPR statement said those killed included Uzbek militants.
A military official, who pleaded anonymity, claimed that a senior leader of the Uzbek militants, Abu Abdur Rahman Al Mani, was killed in the Sunday air strikes in Deegan village. This claim could not be verified through independent sources.
He said air strikes by Pakistani fighter jets were carried out on what he called ‘accurate’ intelligence information about the presence of local and foreign militants. Fearing a military operation in the tribal region against the local and foreign militants, a majority of the residents of North Waziristan had already left their homes and villages for safer places and parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The government did not make any arrangements for the displaced tribespeople upon their arrival at the settled areas of the province and most of the people are living and staying with their relatives, friends and acquaintances or in rented houses. In Mir Ali, 95 percent of the residents have fled the area while 70 percent of the people of Miranshah have vacated their houses and villages.
However, the residents of Deegan village and other places in Dattakhel subdivision, which is the hometown of the Taliban chief Hafiz Gul Bahadur, were still waiting for the situation to improve.
Though the people had long feared that the government was preparing for a military operation, the formal announcement on Sunday by the government sent a wave of terror and concern among the tribespeople remaining in the trouble tribal region.
The Taliban headed by Hafiz Gul Bahadur had signed a peace accord with the government in 2006-07 in which both sides had promised that they would not attack each other.After the attack on the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, which another group of the Pakistani Taliban, headed by Maulana Fazlullah and Uzbek militants had claimed, the Pakistan government had asked the North Waziristan Taliban leader to expel those who came from other areas using the tribal region in the Pakistani state within two weeks or face military action.
A jirga was supposed to hold meetings with the North Waziristan Taliban shura or council to ask them to expel non-local militants from the tribal region and then inform the government and military authorities about the progress of their efforts.
The deadline had not expired yet and the elders of the tribal jirga were still negotiating between the government and militants when the jets started bombing the area.One of the jirga members told this correspondent that the government had sent them to Waziristan for a meeting with the Taliban but imposed curfew in the entire tribal region and it was not possible for them to move and meet the Taliban shura.
“We knew they would make an excuse and would start an operation but it’s not a fair game as they had given us a two-week deadline till June 20. Even the Taliban had extended their deadline till June 20 regarding the scrapping of their peace accord with the government. The government launched the offensive and thus violated the accord,” he said.
He said the Taliban had convened an emergency meeting of the shura and would soon chalk out their future strategy. He said the Taliban had denied reports about the loss of foreign militants and alleged those killed were local residents.
Meanwhile, tribal sources said the senior leadership of the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had secretly left North Waziristan and shifted to Tirah valley in Khyber Agency and Shahbaz valley lying between North and South Waziristan.
The TTP leadership had earlier announced that they would fight shoulder-to-shoulder with Hafiz Gul Bahadur and his fighters against the government. He said all the political parties have thrown their weight behind the Pakistan Army in the operation against terrorists.The minister said a major military operation was the need of the hour but stopped short of giving details of the operation, saying the details cannot be made public at this stage.

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