Peshawar/ISLAMABAD - Security forces Thursday effectively retaliated to a major attack from militants seeking revenge of heavy loss inflicted on them in Wednesday’s strikes in which as many as 60 terrorists were killed in North Waziristan. Another three attackers were said to be killed in Thursday’s fighting.
An ISPR spokesman clarified that no air strikes were carried out in the tribal district on Thursday, saying that in fact terrorists targeted a military camp in Machis Camp village near Miramshah, the capital of North Waziristan Agency (NWA) region using mortar fires and rockets which was responded effectively by a local commanding officer of the Pakistan Army.
The Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement also said that the terrorist attack came after Wednesday’s air strikes in which 60 terrorists were killed. In the last two days military offensive a total 70 suspected militant hideouts were targeted in Mir Ali and Miranshah areas. Total 63 militants were killed and four soldiers embraced martyrdom.
Local sources also said that no aerial strike were carried out in the agency on Thursday; however, in the Machas area clash two Taliban militants were killed and three others arrested. Security forces also defused two IEDs in the area.
The Matchis Camp, near the capital of North Waziristan, is an area set up to house Afghan refugees but now it is a hub for local and foreign militants, Siraj Ahmed, the highest government official in the region, told Reuters by telephone. Residents said helicopter gunships flattened houses and compounds in Matchis Camp while ground forces surrounded the area.
Earlier on Wednesday, security forces launched a major offensive against Taliban militants near the Afghan border after several rounds of government-led talks aimed at ending an insurgency in the remote region failed. An encounter around Mir Ali also took place yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon in which 11 terrorists were killed and four security forces personnel embraced shahadat, the ISPR said. Soldiers wounded in that encounter were shifted to Combine Military Hospital in Peshawar, it said.
On Thursday, Pakistani-made surveillance drones also hovered over the area all morning, the first time the country has launched unmanned aircraft. Speculation that the Army might launch an offensive in the frontier tribal areas has been building as the government’s attempts to engage the Pakistani Taliban in peace talks have floundered in recent months. There has also been a surge in attacks on military outposts recently.
“We announced that people should leave the area,” Ahmed said. “This morning, tanks moved in and helicopter gunships began demolishing houses in the Matchis camp area.” Intelligence and government officials said troops were moving from three directions and some clashes had erupted with Taliban. “The offensive could be the Army’s toughest test in years,” a senior military official said.
The Pakistan government signed an unofficial non-aggression pact with pro-government militants in the area in 2007 and there has been no ground offensive in the area since. In the last few months, the army has intermittently used aircraft to target militant hideouts, and on Wednesday Pakistani fighter jets bombed suspected militant hideouts in North Waziristan.
Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a powerful militant leader in North Waziristan border region, criticised the offensive and told Reuters the council of militant groups he heads was meeting to decide to suspend the 2007 peace deal. Bahadur is known to have links with notorious militant groups in tribal North Waziristan, including the Haqqani network, the most high-profile threat to US forces in Afghanistan.
Foreign militants from various places including Central Asia have long been known to be based in the region. Pakistani authorities imposed a curfew in the area on Tuesday and residents said many people had fled their homes anticipating shelling and raids by helicopter gunships.