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Military planes pound hideouts in Shawal

By Pazir Gul 2014-06-17
MIRAMSHAH: Military planes pounded suspected militant hideouts in the mountainous Shawal region on Monday morning but security officials said a major ground offensive was yet to begin because more troops were being rushed to North Waziristan.

According to an official, the jets struck two abandoned primary schools that had been occupied by foreign and local militants in Manra and Gurbaz areas of Shawal near the Afghan border.

Military officials claimed that Uzbek militants were among those killed.

There was no independent confirmation of the claim as the region has been under strict curfew since Saturday morning.

Thousands of people have ned the region for the adjoining Bannu district and also crossed the border into Afghanistan.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Sardar Mehtab Ahmad Khan announced that a brief reprieve would be allowed to people in North Waziristan on Tuesday to enable them to leave the region.

He criticised the Afghan government for encouraging tribesmen to take refuge in the neighbouring country.

An official in Islamabad said a camp had been set up in Bakkakhel for people displaced from North Waziristan, with a capacity to provide shelter for 5,000 families.

`About 61,000 people have so far left North Waziristan and registered themselves with the authorities,` Tariq Hayat Khan, an official at the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions, told Dawn.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has approve d an initial allocation of Rs500 million for the displaced people.

`Afghanistan should not encourage our people to cross over. This is inappropriate, the governor said at a news conference in Peshawar.

`This will have serious repercussions for the region. Pakistan does not want to interfere in Afghanistan`s domestic problems,` he said, and expressed the hope that the neighbouring country too would not encourage thedisplaced tribal people to cross the border.

But a security official said that the curfew would be lifted and people allowed to evacuate only when all necessary security arrangements had been made. The military put the militants` death toll since the beginning of the operation at 184, including 34 killed in bombing and crossfire on Monday.

The military said it had lost eight soldiers -six of themin a roadside blast near Ghulam Khan on the border with Afghanistan.

Two soldiers were killed in an encounter in Mirali with militants who were trying to force their way through a military barrier, an of ficial said.

More troops were rushed to Miramshah ahead of a full ground operation, a security official said. `A lot of troops have gone in by now,` he said. `Blockade positions and occupation of dominating heights have been almost completed.

The ground assault would come after completion of evacuation, the official said.

`No operation in civilian areas has been started,` a military statement said.

`Troops have cordoned off all terrorist bases, including the towns of Mirali and Miramshah.

Residents in Miramshah said troops had set up posts on hilltops and fired intermittently to warn against possible violations of the curfew. `We are all waiting for the government to announce a break in the curfew for us to leave. What happens next, we don`t know,` a local man said.

Except for the roadside bombing and a small encounter, there was no indication of any major showdown between militants and the troops. `There is no major activity,` an intelligence official said, requesting anonymity.

Most of the militants, he said, had slipped deeper into the mountains. `Whether our troops would chase them into the mountains is the question. It`s not going to be easy. This is where most of the action is likely to take place and this is the area that is seeing the brunt of air power,` the official said.

Meanwhile, spokesman for the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan Shahidullah Shahid warned foreign investors on Monday to leave the country within a month.