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

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals 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.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More