PESHAWAR – At least 11 militants of Punjabi Taliban faction were killed in an early morning US drone strike on Saturday in Dattakhel tehsil of North Waziristan Agency, where Pakistani forces are continuing their own operation against terrorists and they cleared another two important villages of Boya and Degan.
Sources said that two missiles fired by an unmanned US aircraft hit a compound of alleged Punjabi Taliban faction of TTP at Doga Madakhel village of Dattakhel tehsil, situated around 36 kilometres west of Miranshah – the headquarters of North Waziristan.
The strike that came around 3am killed at least 11 militants while the compound was destroyed completely, they said. The sources said the drone continued hovering over the area after the attack and all the militants killed were Punjabi Taliban. Official sources claimed that a total of eight missiles were fired by the drone.
A total of 33 militants have been killed in the last three US drone attacks carried out since the launch of military operation Zarb-e-Azb against militants in North Waziristan Agency (NWA). A drone attack on Wednesday last had killed at least 18 militants in Shawal area of NWA.
Datta Khel is controlled by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a Taliban commander who is considered friendly to Pakistani forces but supports attacks in Afghanistan. He announced a ceasefire against Pakistani troops after they said they would clear North Waziristan of Taliban fighters.
One tribal elder from the area told Reuters that may be why drone strikes, not Pakistani troops, were being used there. Before Saturday’s attack, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which tracks drone strikes using media reports, said at least 35 people had been killed in drone strikes in Pakistan since they restarted in June.
Islamabad has time and again lodged a strong protest against US drone attacks that have been striking from time to time since 2004, saying they are a violation of sovereignty and counterproductive in the fight against terror, as they have a negative impact on the government’s efforts to bring peace and stability in Pakistan and the region. Pakistan government once again condemned Saturday’s drone strike.
In Islamabad’s own military operation in North Wazirsitan, more than 450 militants and 25 soldiers have been killed so far. The military said on Saturday that two important villages of Boya and Degan, which were known to be large concentration centres of local and foreign terrorists, have been cleared.
The Inter Services Public Relation (ISPR), a media wing of Pakistan Army in a statement issued here said that terrorists are being eliminated and dislodged from their bases in North Waziristan as the operation Zarb-e-Azb progresses as per plan. It informed that after Miranshah, these two important villages have been cleared and now their consolidation was in progress.
Besides, at Mirali, house to house search in Mussaki, Hurmez and Mirali bazar is being carried out by integrated group of forces. Terrorists holed up inside Mir Ali and surrounding areas have been firing rockets and mortars, and using heavy machine guns and sniper rifles, the ISPR statement added.
It said that during exchange of fire four terrorists were killed in Mirali, while 12 IEDs were neutralised as well last night. An IED making factory, huge cache of arms and ammunition and foreign currency were also recovered. On Saturday, Corps Commander Lieutenant General Khalid Rabbani visited Mirali, Boya and Degan areas and met with the troops.
About the relief work, the ISPR statement said that distribution of relief items for IDPs continues at Bannu, DI Khan and Tank. And some 133,002 ration packs have been distributed so far. Similarly, 1639 tonnes of ration have been collected so far at 59 relief donations points established by Pakistan Army all over the country and transported to Bannu. Around 29,101 patients have been treated at the Field Medical Hospital established at Khalifa Gul Nawaz hospital Bannu by Army. Around 16,060 cattle have been provided veterinary treatment while 40,278 cattle and 566,393 poultry have been vaccinated, the statement concluded.
MILITANTS’ COMMAND & CONTROL
CENTRE ELIMINATED: ASIF
Meanwhile, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Saturday said the Pak Army has managed to eliminate the terrorists’ command and control centre in the North Waziristan tribal region.
In a statement issued in Islambad, he said command and control structure of the terrorists has been made dysfunctional in North Waziristan. He said the armed forces were going after the terrorists. “The state will go after the terrorists in all the provinces,” the minister said, adding the network of militants has started to collapse. He said the terrorists would be tracked down in the entire country for their complete elimination.
Khawaja Asif said that coordination amongst the security institutions has been further strengthened to avert terrorist attacks.
The defence minister’s statement came a little over a month after the launch of a full-scale military operation in North Waziristan.
The operation Zarb-e-Azb in the militancy-infested region was launched nearly a week after the attack on Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport in order to wipe out longstanding bases of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other militant groups.
The semi-autonomous tribal area on the Afghan border has for years been a hideout for several militant groups, including Al-Qaeda, TTP and foreign fighters such as Uzbeks and Uighurs.