ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani army in its recent Operation Clean-up achieved progress in battling against the Taliban militants in the country’s northwestern tribal region of Kurram where life had been paralyzed by the militants since 2007.
According to security sources, over 100 militants have been killed and dozens of others injured since the operation was launched on July 1 at the request of the local tribesmen. Though the army captured many areas from the militants and destroyed their hideouts militants are showing their strength with surprising attacks on the local people, Xinhua reported on Monday.
In the recent incidents, at least 10 civilians were shot dead on Saturday when unknown militants attacked a passenger vehicle carrying 16 people on the Thall-Parachinar road. On Sunday unknown miscreants torched five trucks and one passenger vehicle while abducting 10 people.
Kurram bordering Afghanistan have become a safe heaven for the militants who fled U.S. drone strikes and Pakistani army’s offensive. Kurram, which is divided into three parts, lower, central and upper Kurram, has always been critical for the militants as it provides them with an easy access to and from Afghanistan.
Local tribesmen told Xinhua that Pakistani Taliban, who fled army actions in other tribal regions, first entered the central and lower Kurram in 2006 and demanded help from local tribesmen in the form of cash, food and hideouts.
Some tribesmen came under pressure and started their silent support but majority of the local Toori and Bungish tribes refused and launched an armed fight against Taliban. In early 2007 Taliban tried to penetrate into the upper Kurram, an area dominated by Shia Muslims, but failed due to the unexpected retaliation from the local tribes.
Then Taliban militants cut the link between Kurram and the other parts of the country by making check-posts at the 70- kilometer-long Thall-Parachinar road.
On April 6, 2007, in the first ever terrorist attack in the area unknown gunmen opened fire at the religious gathering in Parachinar, regional capital, killing over 60 people and injuring around 200, and triggering sectarian tension between Sunni and Shia Muslims. This situation was ideal for Taliban who later increased their brutal attacks which left over 2,000 people dead, over 3,500 injured and more than 3,000 families displaced.
In October 2010 with efforts of a grand Jirga (tribal meeting), the Murree Peace Accord was signed to reopen the Thall-Parachinar road with hopes of permanent peace in the region.
But unluckily on March 25 this year, unknown miscreants attacked a passenger bus carrying 46 passengers, killing 13 of them and taking the rest hostage. Ten days after this incident 10 female students were abducted by militants from a village.
The continuous attacks on passenger buses and kidnapping brought down the peace agreement and the Thall-parachinar road once again went into the control of Taliban militants.
The Pakistani army ignoring the U.S. demand to conduct an operation in North Waziristan tribal area surprisingly accepted the request from the local tribesmen for an immediate military offensive in Kurram.
Before the start of the operation Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan ( TTP) suffered its first split on June 27 when its leader in Kurram, Fazal Saeed Haqqani, detached himself from TTP and announced his new group while speaking against killing of the innocent people, abduction for ransom and actions against Pakistani security forces.
In the second week of the assault, swiftly advancing security forces captured the militants’ stronghold and symbolic headquarter Manato in central Kurram.
Military sources claimed that army’s offensive with the help of gunship helicopters, cannons, tanks, jets had forced militants to escape to Afghan border and neighboring tribal areas of Orakzai and Khyber.
“First we deployed our entire division and then moved the troops swiftly, captured vital points around Manato, and then went for the final assault,” said Brigadier Muhammad Basharat, the officer in charge of the operation.
According to official estimate, around 600 hardcore fighters are active in the area, including about 250 locals and dozens of foreigners. Official sources told Xinhua that about 12,500 families affected by the operation fled their homes to safe places. About 9, 610 displaced families have taken refuge in their relatives’ homes while 2,934 families had settled at the Internal Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps where food, medical service and clean drinking water are being provided.
Talking about the Operation Clean-up, Pakistani analyst asked the government to set up permanent army check-posts in the region otherwise militants would return to the area after some time.-Online