At least 17 militants were killed in airstrikes in Pakistan’s restive North Waziristan region on Friday during a major operation by Pakistani security forces against the Taliban. North Waziristan, a largely tribal region bordering Afghanistan, is believed to be one of the last strongholds of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its local and international affiliates.
“The air force jets pounded the areas close to the Afghan border in thick forests and killed at least 17 militants. Three compounds and five vehicles were also destroyed in the action,” a Pakistani security official, whose name was not revealed, toldAgence France-Presse (AFP).
Almost all of the major attacks carried out in Pakistan in recent years have been traced to groups based in the North Waziristan region.
In June last year, the Pakistani military launched a “comprehensive” offensive in North Waziristan -- aided by American drone strikes -- named Operation Zarb-e-Azb, targeting militants of the TTP, al Qaeda and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Since the operation was launched, over 3,500 militants are believed to have been killed in the region. However, the Taliban and its regional allies still maintain control of a remote region of Shawal Valley, where the Pakistani army launched a “massive” operation on Friday, Reuters reported, citing a Pakistani security official.
“There are roadblocks everywhere, no one can come in or go out. There is a complete curfew and phones lines are also being cut,” a resident of the Shawal Valley told Reuters. “Hundreds of trucks and pickups full of soldiers and weapons ... are moving towards Shawal.”
According to a recent report by the Express Tribune, a Pakistan-based daily, the Pakistani army was also looking to extend its Operation Zarb-e-Azb to the southern Balochistan province in the coming months.