Pakistan steps-up military operation to oust Taliban militants from north Waziristan


Asia Correspondent

Pakistan fighter jets have carried out a fresh attack on militant targets in the tribal area of North Waziristan – a day after the military said it was launching what may be its most significant operation for many years. Meanwhile, five soldiers were killed in what appeared to be a retaliatory bomb attack.

The military reported that the F-16 jets planes hit targets in the Shawal area, said to be home to some of the most unyielding Taliban and al-Qa’ida fighters. The military claimed up to 27 suspected militants were killed, though it was not possible to confirm this independently.

The strikes came a day after Pakistan’s military said it was launching a major operation - Zarb-e-Azb, or Strike of the Prophet’s Sword - to try and drive out militants from a remote area located on the border with Afghanistan.

The army said it had deployed 80,000 soldiers, artillery and helicopter gunships and that major towns such as Mir Ali and Miranshah were surrounded by troops. Seven militants were killed trying to escape Mir Ali, it said.

“I think this is extremely significant. It’s the final battle, if you like,” said Talat Masood, an Islamabad-based analyst and former army general. “The Taliban and other militants have become so powerful. They were able to launch the attack on Karachi airport, which was extremely damaging for Pakistan’s image.”

As the military launched its second consecutive day of strikes, the authorities said they were preparing facilities to help civilians fleeing from the area. The army also said it was increasing security in cities across the country to try and counter any revenge attacks by militants. Five solders were reportedly killed by a bomb attack in North Waziristan.

The military imposed an all-day curfew in North Waziristan and turned off mobile phone services in what it said was a move to undermine the insurgency and restrict people’s movements. The curfew will be relaxed in the next couple of days to allow residents to leave the area.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, was elected last year having said he would try to broker a ceasefire with the Taliban as part of a broader regional settlement. His government held several rounds of talks with representatives appointed by the militants but they made little progress.

The US, a major provider of military and humanitarian aid to Pakistan, has long called for operations against militants in Pakistan, many of whom over the years have crossed the border into Afghanistan and launched strikes against Western troops.

But the Pakistan military has often appeared reluctant to do so. Many analysts believe senior military officers still consider some of the militant factions – a number of which date back to the days of covert, Western-orchestrated operations against Soviet troops in Afghanistan – to be useful proxy forces.

The army’s public relations department said in a statement that more than 140 militants had been killed since the operation started on Sunday. It claimed many of those killed were Uzbek citizens and members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a militant outfit.

The strikes in North Waziristan come a week after militants launched a five hour assault on Karachi airport, an attack that left 36 people dead, including the 10 Taliban gunmen who stormed the premises.

In a statement issued on Monday, the Taliban warned foreign companies operating in Pakistan that they could not be held accountable for their safety. It also said it was blaming Mr Sharif for the operation in the tribal area.

“We warn all foreign investors, airlines and multi-national corporations that they should immediately suspend their ongoing matters with Pakistan and prepare to leave Pakistan, otherwise they will be responsible for their own loss,” said spokesman Shahidullah Shahid.

Mr Masood, the analyst, said he believed the initial push to kill and drive out the militants from North Waziristan would last up to three weeks. He said there would then need to be “holding” operations.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'