Sararogha, Pakistan: Pakistan’s military said Tuesday that its latest offensive against the Taliban had captured most of the towns and population centres once under militant control in South Waziristan.
Pakistan dispatched 30,000 troops into battle on October 17, vowing to crush the Tehreek-e-Taliban network and blaming the faction for some of the deadliest bomb attacks that have killed more than 2,500 people in 28 months.
The offensive has been welcomed by the United States, which has dubbed Waziristan and the rest of Pakistan’s tribal belt on the Afghan border the most dangerous place on Earth where Al-Qaeda are plotting attacks on the West.
Military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told reporters flown by the army to the former rebel bastion of Sararogha that the army had captured most of the population centres and disrupted the militants’ food supply line.
“The myth has been broken that this was a graveyard for empires and it would be a graveyard for the army,” Abbas said.
“Major town and population centres have been secured,” he added.
In Sararogha, which was previously home to around 10,000 people and is surrounded by hills, streets were destroyed, the market reduced to rubble and no civilians in sight, said an AFP reporter.
Commanders said troops were locked in fighting Tuesday at Janata, about six kilometres (four miles) north of Sararogha, which they described as a former bastion of Uzbek and Arab fighters.
Overall, 550 militants and 70 soldiers have been killed since the army launched the offensive on October 17, Abbas said.
The army provides the only regular information from the frontlines. Few of the details can be verified because communication lines are down and journalists and aid workers barred from independent access to the area.
Pakistan estimated 10,000 Tehreek-e-Taliban footsoldiers were holed up in South Waziristan. Although there have been pockets of stiff resistance, many of the militants are believed to have escaped into neighbouring districts.
The South Waziristan offensive has displaced more than 250,000 people, according to the army, and the United Nations has urged Pakistan to ensure safety and security of civilians during the operation.