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Pakistan Blasts off Deathblow Against Taliban (Zarb-e-Azb)

Posted by on Monday, June 16, 2014, 10:41
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Pakistan Army Sunday launched an full scale military operation against foreign/local terrorists holed up in North Wazirastan Agency (NWA), media reported.

Pakistan Army

Pakistan Army

According to a statement issued by Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the operation code named “Zarb-e-Azb” (Strike of Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) sword) has been initiated on the behest of government of Pakistan. Al-Azab, which means sharp and cutting, is the name of one of many ‘fighting blades’ the Holy Prophet  (PBUH) used in different wars against the pagans of Arabia.

Analysts say this critical development clearly indicates the Taliban peace negotiations have finally fallen through.

A military official in the main North Waziristan town of Miranshah said that the coordinated operation — involving airforce, artillery, tanks and ground troops — has already started.

DG ISPR, Maj Gen Asim Bajwa, in the statement issued, said that these terrorists, using North Waziristan as a base, had waged a war against the state of Pakistan and had been disrupting national life in all its dimensions, stunting economic growth and causing enormous loss to life and property.

“They have also paralyzed life within the agency and  perpetually terrorized the entire peace loving and patriotic local population”, he added.

Pakistan’s valiant armed forces had been tasked with the elimination of these terrorists indiscriminately along with their sanctuaries, Bajwa said.

“With the support of the entire nation, and in coordination with other state institutions and Law Enforcement Agencies, these enemies of the state will be denied  space anywhere across the country”, ISPR spokesman said.

“As always, armed forces of Pakistan will not hesitate in rendering any sacrifice for the motherland.”

According to sources, thousands of troops will participate in this action.

“You can roughly say 25,000 to 30,000 troops will be involved in the operation,” said an official.

“We are trying to finish this operation as soon as possible but can’t give an exact time frame. It can conclude in a few days but can also take longer,” he added.

An operation in North Waziristan has been a long-standing demand of Pakistan’s Western allies, including the United States which accuses Islamabad of using the area to give sanctuary to the Haqqani network of fighters, known for their spectacular raids on NATO targets inside Afghanistan

But authorities had held back from a final push — possibly fearing the blowback in Pakistan’s major cities such as Karachi.

Operation to End Before Ramadan?

Talat Masood, a retired general and security analyst said the army would aim to end its operation before the Islamic holy month of Ramadan which begins around June 28.

“It should go only for two three weeks and then troops can be stationed in the area to control the situation and consolidate the positions,” he said.

The operation’s success, he added, was contingent on sealing the porous Pakistan-Afghanistan border which foreign fighters including Chechens, Uzbeks, Turkmen, Tajiks and Uighurs have crossed in recent weeks.

Shoot-on-sight Orders

Shoot-on-sight orders meanwhile have been imposed on residents who leave their homes after dark, according to local intelligence officials and residents, leading to two people from the Sarai Darpa Khel area near Miranshah being critically wounded.

Some 40 percent of the region’s population of half a million have already fled, leaving around 300,000 behind, multiple residents sad.

In the district’s main town of Miranshah, imams made announcements from mosque loudspeakers asking people to recite from the Koran and pray to God for the safety of those who had remained behind.

US drones were also spotted hovering above the area, raising suspicion that Washington and Islamabad were coordinating their efforts after two drone attacks — the first this year — killed 16 militants on Wednesday.

Washington reportedly suspended drone attacks in December to give Islamabad time to pursue peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban aimed at ending a seven-year insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives.

Sealing the Porous Border

A late-night military statement said Afghan security forces “have been requested to seal the border on their side to facilitate elimination of terrorists who attempt to cross the border”.

It added announcements would be made for local residents to approach designated evacuation points.

“Surrender points have also been made for those militants who chose to quit violence and give up their arms,” it said, without elaborating on their fate.

Airstrikes

The offensive came just hours after overnight airstrikes killed at least 105 people in the region including insurgents linked to the Karachi airport attack, according to the military — though local officials placed the toll as high as 150.

But local security officials put the death toll far higher, saying that about 150 militants died in the air strikes, which primarily targeted Uzbek fighters in a remote area of tribal North Waziristan.

Among the dead were insurgents linked to last Monday’s all-night siege of Karachi airport that killed 38 people, including 10 attackers, and all but destroyed a tentative peace process between the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) and the government.

One official said the alleged Uzbek mastermind of the Karachi attack had been killed in the overnight air strikes, with the military officially placing the toll at 105.

“Abu Abdul Rehman Almani, who was mastermind of attack on Karachi airport, and several other commanders have been killed in the strikes,” he said.

The military assault targeted the mountainous Dehgan area, some 25 kilometres (16 miles) west of the main town of Miranshah in North Waziristan, a stronghold for Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants on the border with Afghanistan.

“Today at about 0130 hours (2030 GMT), a number of terrorist hideouts in Dehgan, Datta Khel in North Waziristan were targeted by jet aircraft. The number of terrorists killed in early morning strikes has risen to 80, mostly Uzbeks,” a military statement said.

“There were confirmed reports of presence of foreign and local terrorists in these hideouts who were linked to the planning of the Karachi airport attack.”.

At least ten militants were killed in attacks by Pakistani gunship helicopters in the village of Mir Ali, a local intelligence official in Miranshah said, as the fighting got underway.

The Influx of Foreign Fighters

Thousands of foreign militants, including Chechens, Uzbeks, Turkmen, Tajiks and Uighurs, were drawn to North Waziristan in the early 2000s, lured by the fiery rhetoric of Osama bin Laden and the chance to fight “infidel” forces in Afghanistan.

But many of them have been slipping away in recent weeks amid long-running rumours of a military operation, with official estimates suggesting an exodus of some 60,000 people from the region since May, raising questions about the effectiveness of an operation there.

For years, Pakistan’s government has been under pressure from Western allies to launch a ground offensive in the Taliban-infested North Waziristan, one of seven tribal districts along the border.

But authorities have held back from a final push — possibly fearing the blowback in Pakistan’s major cities such as Karachi.

Following the brazen assault in Karachi, the US carried out two drone strikes in North Waziristan on Wednesday — the first time the controversial programme has been used this year.

Washington reportedly suspended drone attacks in December to give Islamabad time to pursue peace talks with the TTP aimed at ending a seven-year insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives.

The dialogue resulted in a month-long ceasefire between March and April, but later broke down, with Pakistan resuming air strikes on suspected militant hideouts in the tribal areas.

The army was widely seen as being opposed to the dialogue because of the heavy casualties it has sustained at the hands of the TTP, which views them as a mercenary force serving foreign interests.

But following the Karachi attack, Asif, the defence minister, signalled the time for talks was now over.

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