Islamabad: At least 44 Taliban insurgents were killed and 11 others injured as Pakistani security forces continued their offensive in various regions of the Upper Orakzai region of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
According to reports, 15 insurgents were killed in Zakhtan and Balkhtan areas of Upper Orakzai while the forces claimed gaining complete control over the region.
Separately, in Ghalju, headquarters of Upper Orakzai, 20 militants were neutralised by the Army.
Several Taliban hideouts and vehicles were also destroyed by security forces in Kasha and Tuti Maila areas of the region, The Daily Times reports.
The Pakistan Army had earlier announced a ’successful’ end to the offensive in the Orakzai Agency, but local residents and officials have rejected such claims, saying more than half of the region was till under the Taliban’s control.
A statement issued by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) said that the Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s visit to Orakzai recently marked the end of the military operation in the region, and that people displaced due to the war could expect to return to their homeland soon.
“Kayani’s visit to Orakzai Agency marks the successful conclusion of operations in the agency. He appreciated the professional conduct of the operation which has cleared the agency of terrorists,” the ISPR’s statement said.
However, locals said that the battle is far from over, as extremists are still holding a large part of the agency.
“The military has cleared only Lower Orakzai, while the situation in upper and central Orakzai has not changed much, as the army is yet to evict the Taliban from these areas. The battle is far from over,” local residents of Lower Orakzai said.
“In Upper Orakzai, security forces took control of Daburi, while Mamozai, Ghaljo and Shahoo areas are still in Taliban control,” they added.
Local officials also said Uzbek and other terrorists belonging to the “Lal Masjid group” and the Taliban from Swat, Bajaur and Waziristan were putting up stiff resistance in Upper Orakzai.
“The TTP will not reach Peshawar as effortlessly as it would have prior to the operation. However, the job is yet to be completed in western Orakzai. That is where the real problem lies,” an official said.
ISPR spokesperson Major General Athar Abbas also admitted that the war was not over yet.
“The operation in Orakzai was almost over, but stabilisation operations may continue. The consolidation phase has begun and the clearance of population areas will follow soon,” Abbas said.
He said that the Taliban fighters were offering “quite stiff” resistance and that it is necessary to use air power, as it “is hard for ground troops to attack Taliban positions on mountain tops.”