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Pakistani officials say the military has launched its much anticipated
ground offensive against the Taliban in the South Waziristan tribal
region bordering Afghanistan.
Pakistani ground troops moved out of their bases
in and around South Waziristan Saturday, hours after top military and
political leaders met in the capital, Islamabad.
experienced a wave of terror attacks, including suicide blasts
targeting international and security organizations, coordinated attacks
around the country's cultural center, Lahore, and an audacious assault
on the army's headquarters near Islamabad.
Some 175 people have
died in the past two weeks. The government has blamed the Pakistani
Taliban, which is based in South Waziristan, for the violence.
Hours ahead of Saturday's offensive, Pakistani authorities imposed a curfew and turned off mobile phone service in some areas.
officials say nearly 30,000 troops have been deployed to take on an
estimated 10,000 Taliban fighters. In recent days, the military has
launched several air and artillery strikes on suspected militant
Despite the military's superiority in numbers, former
security chief of the tribal regions, Mahmood Shah, tells VOA it will
not be an easy battle.
"This 30,000 against 10,000 is a conventional battle," he said. "The militants do not fight conventional battles."
says he expects the military will face an enemy deeply entrenched in
the mountainous and remote region. He also cautions that militants
will likely launch suicide attacks elsewhere.
This is not the
first time the military has done an offensive in the tribal region.
But those previous operations were not successful mainly because
militants killed sympathetic tribal leaders and opposition political
parties refused to offer their support.
For the past several
months since the anti-Taliban offensive in and around Swat Valley, the
military has built up its forces around South Waziristan.
Bessler, head of the U.N.'s Office for Coordinating Humanitarian
Affairs in Pakistan, tells VOA that many civilians have fled the area.
had IDPs, internally displaced people, since May about 77,000, up to
80,000," he said. "Now with this more intense fighting and military
operation inside [South] Waziristan, we have a daily outflow of 70 to
100 families from the area."
And with the harsh winter weather
just weeks away, Bessler says his office is coordinating closely with
Pakistani agencies to help those displaced.