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

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs