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

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' 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.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs