Military helicopters shelled militant hideouts in the country’s restive northwest on Wednesday as part of a massive ongoing offensive against the Taliban and other extremists, killing 10 insurgents, officials said. The helicopters pounded compounds in the Khar Warsak area, 12 kilometres north of Miranshah, the main town in the North Waziristan tribal region.
“The helicopters destroyed three militant compounds and killed 10 insurgents during the shelling,” a local security official told AFP. A local intelligence official confirmed the attack and militant casualties. Nearly 500,000 people have fled the offensive in North Waziristan, which is aimed at wiping out longstanding militant strongholds in the area, which borders Afghanistan. Tens of thousands of families have left for the town of Bannu, close to North Waziristan, while hundreds more have moved further afield to the towns of Lakki Marwat, Karak and Dera Ismail Khan since the offensive began in mid-June.
Jets and artillery began hitting militant targets in North Waziristan on June 15, launching an operation to regain full control of the district after years of pressure from Washington and other powers. The assault was finally launched after a dramatic attack on Karachi airport last month which killed dozens of people and marked the end of a faltering peace process with the Pakistani Taliban. So far, 376 militants and 19 soldiers have been killed in the offensive. , according to the military, though with the area off-limits to journalists the number and identity of the dead is impossible to verify.
Major General Asim Bajwa, the chief spokesman for the Pakistani military, said on Tuesday the ongoing offensive would target all militants, including the feared Haqqani network. He also demanded Afghanistan do more to track down hardline cleric Maulana Fazlullah, who took over the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leadership last year after previous chief Hakimullah Mehsud was killed by a US drone.
Fazlullah is believed to be in hiding across the border. -nation