Ground offensive launched in Waziristan, says military
Dera Ismail Khan - Final push to clear the militants' last hideouts in Shawal valley
Pakistani troops pushed deeper into militant-held areas in the North Waziristan region on Friday, launching a ground offensive against the Taleban and other terrorists in their last strongholds near the Afghan border.
Since May, the military has stepped up operations in the deeply forested ravines of the Shawal valley, which straddles the regions of North and South Waziristan along the frontier with Afghanistan, and is dotted with militant bases.
The troops began pushing deeper into Shawal after days of aerial bombing that the army said killed dozens of militants.
"Ground operation in Shawal, North Waziristan begins," the army's chief spokesman, Major General Asim Salim Bajwa, announced on Twitter late on Thursday night.
Residents remaining in Shawal said many were desperately looking for a way to flee. "In the last days, there has been heavy bombardment in the area. I'm worried for my children," said Shamal Khan, speaking by telephone from the remote area.
This week's thrust by the armed forces is described as a final clearing of the militants' last hideouts in the valley.
The military recaptured most of North Waziristan in an offensive started in June 2014. Before the operation began, the army ordered most civilians to leave. Those in the Shawal valley were permitted to stay.
Another resident, Mir Alam, said local officials didn't tell them to go before this week's bombardment. "Now we are in a hurry to get out, but I have hundreds of goats and more than a dozen family members here," he said.
Taleban spokesman Mohammed Khorassani denied government claims of dozens of militants killed in the past week. "We have no losses there because the government does not know where we are," he said.
Retired brigadier general Shaukat Qadir said he doubted this week's offensive would be the final blow in Pakistan's fight against terrorists.
"Every phase will be final, but it's not been ended," Qadir told Reuters, noting that the ideology and recruitment ability of the Taleban and other terrorists remained along with the ability to launch militant attacks.
The 'foreign-funded' Taleban have killed thousands of innocent people in the name of imposition of Islamic Shariah.