ISLAMABAD: The army declared victory over militants in Orakzai Agency on Tuesday and said that the military operation in the area had been completed and civilians could expect to return home soon.
The announcement about the operation’s end was contained near the end of a short press release describing a visit to Orakzai and neighbouring Kurram tribal regions by Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
“Kayani’s visit to Orakzai Agency marks the successful conclusion of operations in the agency,” the statement said, adding: “He appreciated the professional conduct of the operation which has cleared the agency of terrorists.”
The statement also said civilians who fled Orakzai could expect to return home soon. More than 200,000 people are believed to have poured out of the area since the end of last year.
The announcement about the Orakzai tribal region may free the army to send some troops to other districts where militants have bases.
But the victory could also be fleeting — the army has declared success in other trouble spots in the past, only to see militants regroup and resurge.
The offensive in Orakzai came on the heels of an operation against the Pakistani Taliban in South Waziristan. Many militants in South Waziristan were believed to have fled to Orakzai, though the top Pakistani Taliban leaders are believed to be in North Waziristan, an area the army has resisted attacking.
For months, the military pounded Orakzai with air strikes, eventually staging a ground operation as well. The offensive intensified in March, with the reported daily death tolls of suspected militants sometimes in the dozens.
Information from the region has been nearly impossible to verify independently because not only is Orakzai remote and dangerous, but access to any part of the tribal belt is severely restricted.—AP
Dawn Correspondent adds: Eighteen militants, some foreigners among them, were killed and six injured when military planes pounded their hideouts in upper Orakzai on Tuesday, security officials said.
Sources said that militants were meeting at a hideout in Kot Kali area when they were hit by the planes.
The officials said two hideouts had been destroyed.
The casualties could not be confirmed from independent sources because journalists do not have access to the area.
Gen Kayani addressed a jirga of tribal elders in Kalaya, the regional headquarters. He said people should share responsibility for restoring peace in the area.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people displaced by clashes in Orakzai held a demonstration in Hangu in protest against Pakistan Red Crescent Society’s alleged discrimination in distribution of relief goods.
The protesters blocked the Hangu-Kohat road. They accused the Red Crescent Society of ignoring the people of Orakzai and said they had been provided food ration after a lapse of two months. They also said that their people in camp faced an acute shortage of food.
Click to view image: 'COAS meets Troops'
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