Army clears major terrorist hubs

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640 sq kms, peaks over 9000 feet cleared in Shawal; 252 militants killed, 160 injured in last phase of Zarb-i-Azb; Battle to clear last pocket close to Pak-Afghan border continues

Sophia Siddiqui

Islamabad—Since the start of last phase of Zarb-e-Azb operation in February, security forces have killed at least 252 militants while clearing 640 square kilometers of so far uncontrolled area in Shawal valley of North Waziristan Agency. Over 160 militants were also seriously wounded in the offensive, disclosed the Inter-Services Public Relations in a statement on Sunday.
“Major terrorist hubs” in Mana, Gurbaz, Lataka, Inzarkas and Magrotai areas have been cleared of militants, the statement said adding the battle to clear the last pocket close to the Pak-Afghan border continues. All heights over 9,000 feet have been cleared. “Operation is continuing in Shawal heights which are fully covered in snow, and visibility is very poor on and inside mountains.”
“Terrorists’ hideouts were destroyed, a cache of arms and ammunition recovered and there was virtually no communications infrastructure remaining in the Shawal area once the operation was launched in Feb this year,” the statement said.
Since the beginning of the operation in June 2014, security forces have cleared 4,304 sq km in North Waziristan and “restored writ of the government in all areas, especially in remote pockets of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas”, the ISPR said.
In the last two months, valiantly fighting in Shawal, 8 soldiers of Pakistan Army embraced Shahadat while 39 were injured.
Soldiers have made 150-kilometre-long tracks while conducting the operation, the statement said, adding that the ongoing operation is being conducted in extremely hostile terrain under harsh weather conditions.
During the last phase of Zarb-i-Azb, return of Temporarily Displaced Persons is progressing according to plan, as 37,012 families in North Waziristan Agency,36 per cent of TDPs, have returned to their homes.
Around 94 development projects have been completed in the first and second phases in North Waziristan Agency, and 153 projects were kick started in phase three, the ISPR said, adding that progress on the projects was reviewed by Army Chief General Raheel Sharif.
Military operation Zarb-i-Azb was launched in North Waziristan nearly two years ago after a brazen militant attack on Karachi’s international airport and the failure of peace talks between the government and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan negotiators.
The number of attacks in Pakistan has fallen around 70 per cent, due to a combination of the military offensive against Taliban bases along the Afghan border and government initiatives to tackle militancy, recent reports have revealed.
At the advent of this year, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel, who is also retiring this year, had declared that the 2016 will be the year of end of terrorism and in the month of February he also gave the go ahead for the last phase of Zarb-e-Azb operation in areas close to the border with Afghanistan.
According to sources, Zarb-e-Azb operation in North Waziristan will see culmination this year while the intelligence based operations against terrorists and their abettors will be continued across the country. The sources further told Pakistan Observer that the intelligence based operations will be geared in the days to come in the wake of the arrest of serving RAW Officer Kulbushan Yadav in Balochistan.
The sources revealed there are clear indications that there are hundreds of RAWs agents operating in the country but there is firm commitment on the part of both military and civilian leadership to bust them to realize the dream of complete peace and stability in the country.

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