Pakistani security forces say they have made significant gains in their
ongoing offensive in a tribal region bordering Afghanistan. The
two-month military operation in the Bajaur area, they say, has killed
more than 1,500 militants while 73 soldiers also have died. VOA's Ayaz
Gul reports from the border village of Loisam the Pakistani military
reclaimed this week.
By taking the key settlement of Loisam in
the troubled north-western region, Pakistani military authorities say
they have dealt a severe blow to communication lines of militants
linked to al-Qaida and Taliban in the Bajaur region. The village was
completely destroyed after heavy fighting.
The operation in the region began in early August after several major attacks on the army.
commander of the ongoing operation in Bajaur, Major-General Tariq Khan,
told a group of local and foreign reporters on Saturday that troops
were now in complete control of the town of Loisam. But he acknowledged
the militants had been offering stiff resistance to his soldiers from
their network of tunnels and fortified compounds.
"It was a
very unusual kind of battle," said General Khan. "It was not
conventional. The resistance would dissolve in places wherever we would
attack. It would regroup and reappear in the rear. This was facilitated
by the underground tunnels that were made with caches of weapons that
had been stored and placed all over."
Bajaur is one of the
tribal areas on the Afghan border where the government has previously
had little influence. Taliban and al-Qaida raids into Afghanistan from
this mountainous tribal region are regularly launched from here.
Khan says that elimination of militants from this agency will
discourage militancy in other tribal areas. "The worst is over and I
think things from here onward will be much easier. In my personal
feeling, I think we have turned the corner," he said.
Pakistani government is also encouraging tribesmen to revive
traditional militias, known as lashkars, to rout out militants in their
areas. But General Khan rejected criticism that the militias could pose
a threat to Pakistani authority once the militants are evicted. He also
denied media reports the government is providing the Lashkars with
"We are not providing any weapons or any kind of
support to the lashkars [tribal militias] and they are made up with
their own resources," said General Khan. "It dissolves after if has met
Pakistani authorities say that 300 foreign
militants had been arrested during the offensive. Uzbeks, Tajiks and
Afghans are among the detainees.