MIRANSHAH: The military said on Thursday that its anti-militant offensive in North Waziristan has now taken control of 80 percent of a strategic town, as a US drone strike on Thursday killed six suspected insurgents.
The army says it has retaken most of Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan which had been under effective militant control for years. Adding to the pressure on militants, two US drones fired four missiles into a compound in Doga Macha Madda Khel, a village close to Dattakhel town, local security officials said. The village lies 35 kilometres west of Miranshah. A local security official told AFP that Thursday’s drone strike had killed four foreign fighters and two local cadres who had fled Miranshah before the launch of the offensive.
“The compound and a vehicle parked inside were completely destroyed and killed at least six militants,” the official told AFP. Another security official in Peshawar confirmed the attack and the casualties. It is the third round of drone strikes to hit northwest Pakistan since the US resumed the campaign following a six-month hiatus. Journalists including AFP reporters were taken on a rare trip to Miranshah on Wednesday to see the aftermath of the operation, which began on June 15 with air strikes and artillery bombardment and continued with nine days of ground assault.
The once-bustling town is now virtually deserted, the rubble of countless bombed-out buildings strewn across the dusty streets. Apart from soldiers, only dogs and donkeys roam the ruins, picking through the wreckage for scraps of food. “It’s about 80 percent clear from the terrorists but it’s still not clear of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) – it will take more time for combat engineers to clear the IEDs,” General Zafarullah Khan told AFP in Miranshah.
ISPR DG Major General Asim Bajwa said that before the onslaught the town become a virtual supermarket for militants wanting to equip themselves with guns and explosives. “This looked like a terrorist economy, a whole chain of things being sold in the city,” Bajwa told AFP. “You could find a shop selling IEDs, another shop selling fuses, and a third selling cords and detonators.” Soldiers showed journalists what they described as a “suicide bomber training centre” complete with explosive vests lined up against the walls.
In all, the army said they had recovered 23 tonnes of explosive material in Miranshah, including IEDs, mines and rocket-propelled grenades. The army says it has killed 400 insurgents in the course of the operation.
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