ISLAMABAD: Helicopter gunships and jets pounded militant targets in North Waziristan and Khyber agencies on Saturday, killing up to 30 rebels, as the number of civilians fleeing an long-awaited offensive there surpassed 300,000.
The number of refugees is expected to increase as around 300,000 people are trapped in North Waziristan due to a shoot-on-sight curfew which was extended for one day after it expired on Friday. Authorities have told the stranded residents to leave the area by Sunday (today). Arbab Arif, the chief administrator of the tribal areas, told reporters in Peshawar that the total number of people who fled the region has surpassed 300,000. He added that another 300,000 were yet to be evacuated.
At least 30 militants were reported dead on Saturday in the two tribal agencies as security forces stretched the surgical strikes’ outreach from North Waziristan to Khyber Agency, destroying five militant hideouts in the two areas. Moreover, the extended one-day curfew relaxation given by the political administration to NWA residents to allow maximum civilian evacuation from the tribal agency ended on Saturday. Previously, three-day curfew relaxation was given from Wednesday to Friday. Periodical evacuation will be carried out with effect from today (Sunday).
Talking to Daily Times, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) Law and Order Secretary Jamal Nasir said majority of the NWA residents was out of the North Waziristan Agency (NWA). “They have been declared as internally displaced persons (IDPs) and have been mainly moving to Bannu. But we have set up IDPs camps in Dera Ismail Khan, Kohat and Lakki Marwat as well,” he said. The top official said the security forces and political administration took adequate measures by means of enhanced surveillance, scrutiny and search to block the militants from fleeing in the garb of the IDPs.
More than 250,000 have left the NWA, Nasir added. About surgical strikes in Khyber Agency, the secretary said the aerial mission in the tribal agency was not part of Zarb-e-Azb operation, but it was in line with the security forces’ reviewed strategy to take on the terrorists across FATA. “Through a well coordinated and planned mechanism, the forces are executing their operations against the terrorists.” The areas where surgical strikes have been launched have zero civilian population, Jamal Nasir claimed.
The secretary said the operational plan and execution of Zarb-e-Azb operation and the military action in other parts of the FATA rested with the Pakistan Army, and the political administration did not have any role or involvement in this regard. “They know their job best. When and where to strike.” Meanwhile, the daily update of Zarb-e-Azb operation issued Saturday by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) said 30 terrorists were killed in targeted strikes by the jet aircrafts in North Waziristan and Khyber Agencies early Saturday morning.
Military sources said the jet aircraft of the Northern Air Command (NAC) of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) led the surgical missions in the NWA and Khyber Agency that were also participated by the Pakistan Army’s Cobra choppers. On Saturday, three hideouts were destroyed in Hassu Khel in NWA, killing 20 terrorists, the ISPR said. “All strikes were made in areas where there is no civil population,” ISPR said. Earlier at 2am Saturday, the jet aircrafts destroyed two hideouts close to Pak- Afghan border in Khyber agency killing 10 terrorists, the military statement said.
It said all ranks of Pakistan Army will donate one day pay for IDPs of NWA. “Army will also donate ration for their displaced tribal brethren of North Waziristan Agency to meet their immediate needs for next thirty days.” Peshawar Corps Commander Lieutenant General Khalid Rabbani on Saturday visited the IDPs camp in Bakkakhel, Bannu. “He met the IDPs and inquired about their well being. He instructed all those responsible not to leave any stone unturned in looking after our displaced brethren of North Waziristan,” the ISPR said.
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