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

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Comment Sorting
Comment on this forum (3)
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.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid