MIRANSHAH: Fighter jets bombarded Taliban hideouts in tribal areas Tuesday, killing at least 30 people according to security sources.
The morning attacks on the North and South Waziristan districts were the fourth set of raids since February 20. More than 100 alleged terrorists have now died, the sources said. The focus of Tuesday’s attacks, which also involved helicopter gunships, was mostly the mountainous Shawal valley and Datta Khel in North Waziristan, and Sararogha in neighbouring South Waziristan, the officials said. Residents and officials in the northwest said hundreds of families have fled their homes.
“People are leaving the area after a deadlock in peace talks,” a resident of Miranshah told AFP by telephone, requesting anonymity. They are taking shelter with relatives in Peshawar and other cities further away from the border, residents said. One tribesman, Naqibullah Khan, told Reuters he was scared for his family because of persistent rumours that the army would soon launch a full-scale offensive. “Every day heavy arms and ammunition are being shifted to Waziristan and then war planes bomb villages,” Khan said by telephone from Bannu. Two-thirds of the population of his village in the Mir Ali area had fled, he said.
“We were hearing that the government would soon launch a big military operation in Waziristan.” Another tribesman, Gul Jabbar, said by telephone that he had left his shop and home behind in a village after it was hit by fighter jets last week. “The government is doing nothing to help the people leaving their villages or helping them find accommodation in Bannu,” he said. Earlier this month, government entered into talks with the Taliban in an attempt to end their seven-year insurgency which has cost thousands of lives. But the terrorist group continued carrying out attacks on a near-daily basis.
Dialogue was suspended and air attacks began after the insurgents claimed last week they had executed 23 kidnapped FC soldiers. Senior Taliban commander Asmatullah Shaheen, a former interim chief of the Taliban, was meanwhile buried in the northwest on Tuesday. Shaheen, who had a 10-million-rupee price on his head, was shot dead in Miranshah on Monday. Officials blamed the killing on internal rivalries. Experts say the air raids are designed to give the military the upper hand if peace talks, which were suspended last week, resume. They said the army was probably not yet prepared to launch a full-fledged ground operation in the area.
Retired general and security analyst Talat Masood said the military may be attempting to strengthen its position if talks eventually resume. “The peace process if at all it continues now would be from a position of strength and not from a position of weakness,” he said.
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