More deaths and clashes in North Waziristan

Published December 20, 2013
— File photo
— File photo

MIRAMSHAH: The violence in North Waziristan Agency triggered by a Wednesday-night suicide attack against security forces continued on Friday as another three people were killed after security forces opened fire on a vehicle during curfew hours near Khajori check post. The death toll in this week’s clashes has reached 53 according to locals.

Still unclear is whether the individuals who have been killed in this week’s clashes are civilian or militant. Indeed, the entire chain of events that has left the whole of North Waziristan under a curfew for four days is shrouded in confusion. Competing version of events between military sources, militant groups and local residents cannot yet be reconciled in an area that is inaccessible to most journalists.

Curfew was relaxed for two hours between 11am and 1pm in Mirali town and the local administration allowed people to remove the dead bodies. Following a rocket attack on a base, security forces resorted to heavy shelling in the area. There is still however no sign of a large-scale military operation against suspected militants in the area.

Local people said that Waziristan had been virtually sealed and residents stranded in Bannu and other adjacent areas were not allowed to go home.

Security forces fired at a car near Khajori checkpoint during curfew hours, killing three passengers. Troops resorted to retaliatory firing when miscreants fired three rockets at a security forces’ base near Mirali town. Artillery and mortar shells rained on residential compounds in Mirali, Mosaki and Epi village. Helicopter gunships also fired rockets at suspected positions.

The trouble started in Mirali, the second largest town of North Waziristan Agency, after a suicide bomber driving an explosive-laden vehicle targeted a mosque at Khajori check post on Wednesday evening. Officials said that one soldier and a contractor were killed and 11 personnel suffered injuries in suicide attack.

According to the official version, militants ambushed a convoy transporting wounded soldiers from Khajori to Mirali on Wednesday night. Troops retaliated and 24 militants, including Uzbeks, were killed. The ISPR said 10 more militants were killed during search operation in the area on Thursday.

Residents denied the official claims and said that security forces encircled two hotels and that the dead were non-combatants.

Residents said that 12 more bodies were found in different localities of Mirali Bazaar on Friday. Bodies were sent to Bannu, Lakki Marwat districts and villages in Waziristan. Two bodies were buried in Lakki Marwat and six were shifted to Bannu.

Three members of a family killed in firing at the hotels were buried in Dandy Derpakhel near Miramshah. Relatives said that deceased were bringing poultry from Bannu to Miramshah and stranded in Mirali due to clashes. Four brothers hailing from Haiderkhel village were also buried near Miramshah.

Residents said that heavy shelling by tanks, gunship helicopters, use of light and heavy artillery had caused widespread damage to private properties, including shops in Mirali bazaar.

The media cell of the proscribed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan released images of the burnt shops and destroyed buildings showing marks of artillery shells. The pictures were sent to various media outlets and the TTP accused security forces of killing innocent civilians in operation.

On the other hand political administration in Miramshah and civil secretariat Fata in Peshawar have adopted silence and yet to release press note or clarification about the deteriorating situation in North Waziristan.

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