News / Asia

Pakistani Offensive Empties Largest Town in North Waziristan

Pakistani Offensive Empties Biggest Town in Militant Sanctuaryi
X
Ayaz Gul
July 11, 2014 4:03 PM
Pakistan's military recently took a group of journalists to Miranshah, North Waziristan, the main city in a region that has been stronghold of militant and terrorist groups. Ayaz Gul brings us a first-person view of the trip to a city that is now empty of residents, but full of evidence of the militants who were once based there.
Ayaz Gul

Pakistani military commanders said the army’s ongoing offensive against terrorist groups in North Waziristan is “progressing well,” but also that they have found signs of foreign operatives working in the area. 

At the region’s administrative center in Miranshah, where the Pakistani Taliban was headquartered, the army said it has found traces of foreign al-Qaida operatives, as well as the anti-China East Turkistan Islamic Movement and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

The Pakistan army, which launched its counter-terrorism offensive nearly a month ago, flew journalists to Miranshah this week to showcase the gains it has made so far.

Militant territory

Major-General Zafarullah Khan, operation commander, said troops have inflicted heavy losses on militants and the mission remains aimed at regaining government control over the entire North Waziristan territory.

The area “was no doubt the epicenter of terrorism. It was the nerve center, logistics and communication base for all terrorist groups and their activities,” Khan said.

“There was a presence of large number of local and foreign terrorists of all creeds and colors. This place was also used to an extent for indoctrinating the minds of raw youth for suicide missions,” he added.

Pakistan army display confiscated ammunition, reportedly from militants Miranshah, after driving out militants from Pakistan's tribal region of North Waziristan along the Afghanistan border, July 9, 2014.Pakistan army display confiscated ammunition, reportedly from militants Miranshah, after driving out militants from Pakistan's tribal region of North Waziristan along the Afghanistan border, July 9, 2014.
x
Pakistan army display confiscated ammunition, reportedly from militants Miranshah, after driving out militants from Pakistan's tribal region of North Waziristan along the Afghanistan border, July 9, 2014.
Pakistan army display confiscated ammunition, reportedly from militants Miranshah, after driving out militants from Pakistan's tribal region of North Waziristan along the Afghanistan border, July 9, 2014.

After months of signals from the military that it planned a large offensive in North Waziristan, aerial bombardment began in mid-June.

About 800,000 people have reportedly fled the region for temporary camps in nearby towns, where the army and aid groups are assisting the government in dealing with the humanitarian crisis.

Khan said that although most of the territory around Miranshah has been cleared of extremists, advancing troops face a daunting task of clearing a huge amount of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

He said the troops have found about a dozen bomb-making facilities and an underground network of tunnels.

  • A Pakistani soldier is seen near destroyed shops in Miranshah, North Waziristan, Pakistan. (Ayaz Gul/VOA)
  • Weapons seized by the army are displayed in Miranshah Bazaar, North Waziristan, Pakistan. (Ayaz Gul/VOA)
  • Destruction in Miranshah's bazaar, North Waziristan, Pakistan. (Ayaz Gul/VOA)
  • A Pakistani soldier stands on the roof of a roadside shop in Miranshah, North Waziristan, Pakistan. (Ayaz Gul/VOA)
  • Miranshah Bazaar, North Waziristan, Pakistan. (Ayaz Gul/VOA)
  • A Pakistani soldier on guard duty in Miranshah, North Waziristan, Pakistan. (Ayaz Gul/VOA)
  • Soldiers stand guard at an IED making facility in North Waziristan, Pakistan. (Ayaz Gul/VOA)
  • Cylinders in an IED factory used to make car bombs in Miranshah, North Waziristan, Pakistan. (Ayaz Gul/VOA)
  • Soldiers drive through Miranshah Bazaar, North Waziristan, Pakistan. (Ayaz Gul/VOA)
  • Arms and pro-Jihad literature seized from militants in Miranshah, North Waziristan, Pakistan. (Ayaz Gul/VOA)
  • A street leading to a Taliban-run prison in Miranshah, North Waziristan, Pakistan. (Ayaz Gul/VOA)
  • A three room prison cell where militants detained pro-army tribesmen in Miranshah, North Waziristan, Pakistan. (Ayaz Gul/VOA)
  • Soldiers guard deserted streets in Miranshah, North Waziristan, Pakistan. (Ayaz Gul/VOA)

Khan said soldiers also found terrorist media production centers as well as arms caches.

“The enormity of the task at hand is such that it is going to take time to clear the town of the IEDs. More than 23 tons of prepared IEDs are there in a area of about 1.5 by 1 kilometer,” Khan said.

Advance warning

Critics of the offensive have claimed that by giving ample warning ahead of the offensive, many militants have escaped. But Khan said all efforts are being made to prevent that from happening, unlike previous army actions in tribal districts adjacent to North Waziristan.

Khan said that while efforts were made to seal the area and limit the movement of militants, some may have fled the area.

He claimed that there have been no civilian deaths so far, in either airstrikes or the ground offensive. 

There are no independent monitors to verify his claim.

Khan said it will be premature to speculate on the exact number of terrorists killed or whether most of them have escaped to nearby tribal areas or across the Afghan border.

Reporters were given a tour of the main market of Miranshah and surrounding streets.

The once bustling city now looks like a ghost town where the only residents besides the Pakistani soldiers appeared to be a donkey and a couple of stray dogs searching for food in the garbage. 

A large number of shop doors were half open, suggesting workers quickly left the area to escape army shelling.

Lieutenant Colonel Wajjaht briefed reporters while standing inside a bomb-making facility. 

 “We can easily call it an IED factory, a large sort of shed in which you can see the cylinders in abundance,” Wajjaht said. “There numbers are over 700 - half of them filled, half of them are ready to be filed. Basically, these are the vehicle-born IEDS, most of them.”

Foreign fighters

In addition to al-Qaida foreign operatives and the Haqqani Network of Afghan insurgents, the Waziristan region has long hosted anti-China and Islamist militants from Uzbekistan.

The Haqqani militants have conducted high-profile attacks against U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan but Pakistan until now resisted pressure to go after these extremists because it is widely perceived they have links with the Pakistani spy agency. 

Army spokesman Major-General Asim Bajwa said the ongoing offensive is aimed at eliminating terrorist sanctuaries in the region.

"We are targeting terrorists of all hue and color, all local and foreign terrorists who are there and we will not allow our soil to be used for terrorist activities anywhere,” Bajwa said.

For the hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the fighting, it remains unclear when they may return home.

Army commanders in North Waziristan said they have not set a timeline to end the offensive.

You May Like

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Zia from: Pakistan
July 12, 2014 7:26 PM
But my friend.....where are the terrorists??? Why would we not have planned to encircle the region before attacking so we could get the brain trust and the jihadis?? Appears as most had time to escape...
In Response

by: Afghan from: America
July 13, 2014 2:43 AM
Zia,

Even you with probably zero military background know that if you have a unsecured border, you need to encircle rebels to defeat them. However your gov is playing games, 1-2 week notice to the rebels and a one sided attack. Then they expect the Afghan gov to restrict rebel movements to Afghanistan...

by: syed Mudabbir Rizvi from: Islamabad
July 12, 2014 6:51 AM
A day visit organized by 'ISPR, to an active war zone is never an easy job for reporter or a video journalist to cover, obviously due to time constraints and security situation.Hats off to Mr. Gul for the outstanding coverage.Very effective strategy in making it visually impactful.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs