PESHAWAR - Pakistan Army said Monday it had killed 10 militants and destroyed an explosives cache in fresh air strikes as part of a major offensive against the Taliban in the northwest.

Pakistan began the long-awaited push to clear insurgent bases from North Waziristan district, on the Afghan border, in June after a bloody attack on Karachi airport finally sank faltering peace talks with the rebels.

“Army aviation gunship helicopters struck in area ahead of Boya Degan in North Waziristan. In a precise strike on a terrorist hideout, gunship helicopters destroyed one explosive dump and five vehicles and killed 10 terrorists,” the military said in a statement.

The conflict zone is off-limits to journalists, so there is no way to independently verify the number and identity of those killed.

Air strikes, artillery, mortars and ground troops have all been used to retake territory in North Waziristan, which had become a haven for fighters with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other militant outfits.

The military has said the major towns of Miranshah and Mir Ali had now been cleared of insurgents, along with a 90-kilometre (55-mile) road through North Waziristan.

Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal areas on the Afghan border have for years been a hideout for Islamist militants of all stripes - including Al-Qaeda and the homegrown TTP as well as foreign fighters such as Uzbeks and Uighurs.

Washington pressed Islamabad for years to take action to wipe out sanctuaries in North Waziristan, which militants have used to launch attacks on NATO forces in neighbouring Afghanistan.

The latest attacks came a week after the army announced it had killed more than 900 militants and lost 82 soldiers since the start of the operation.

Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif said the other day the army’s ever readiness to respond to any internal threat and disaster as a first-responder, has been their hallmark.

According to an Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), while visiting the Corps Headquarters in Multan on Friday, the Army chief said that the army’s state of operational readiness always acted as the best deterrence against enemies of Pakistan.

TRIBESMEN DEMAND END TO OP

Our staff reporter adds from Peshawar: Tribal leaders belonging to the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) have asked the government to wind up ongoing military operation in North Waziristan agency and announce repatriation of the internally displaced families to their respective hometowns.

Speaking at a news conference here at the Press Club on Monday, PTI former chief organiser Fata Dr Bashir Ahmad said that as per statement of Pak Army about 80 per cent areas of the North Waziristan Agency were cleared of militants and troops consolidated its positions in the region.

Following the claim of security forces, he demanded of the government to make proper arrangements to repatriate the internally uprooted families to their homes in tribal agency.

Regarding miseries of IDPs, Bashir said that around one million people, including women, children and aged people were compelled to flee from their homes in the wake of military operation in tribal agency but the government did not make prior arrangements for huge mass exodus from the restive tribal area.

“The IDPs have been facing immense difficulties due to suspension of food and relief package for the last one month while food items distributed among the affectees were substandard,” he added.

Similarly, he said that a number of displaced families were deprived of food and financial assistance packages due to non-availability of CNICs or absence of their family heads.

He also lamented that baton charge was being used against the already distressed IDPs at the food distribution points, which was tantamount to insulting them. “Tribesmen are patriotic citizens of the country whom rendered numerous sacrifices for the protection of borders of the motherland,” Dr Bashir said.

He urged the government to stop the step motherly attitude with innocent displaced families and ensure provision of adequate facilities at their makeshift camps.