ISLAMABAD / PESHA­WAR: The army carried out over 2,200 counter-terrorism actions across the country to prevent retaliatory action by the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other militants groups after the launching of the Zarb-i-Azb military operation in North Waziristan.

A total of 910 suspected militants have been killed since the operation was launched in June for eliminating their sanctuaries in the tribal region, while the military’s death toll stands at 82.

“Operation Zarb-i-Azb is progressing as per plan,” a military spokesman said on Wednesday.

He said 2,274 intelligence-led coordinated counter-terrorism operations had been carried out throughout the country to forestall any blowback of Zarb-i-Azb.

ISPR Director General Maj Gen Asim Bajwa said the army had set up an “integrated security mechanism” for carrying out the intelligence-based operations.

Prior to the start of the operation, the government had feared an intense backlash from the militants and their sympathisers. This fear had delayed the operation for years.

However, a sudden decline in terrorist attacks after the start of the operation took everyone by surprise. The only high-profile strike the militants could carry out was an attack on army and air force airbases near Quetta last month.

The spokesman did not provide details about places where these counter-terrorism operations had been carried out due to sensitivity of the information.

However, he said they had broadly focused on areas in south Punjab, Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Karachi and Bannu.

He said that backlash had been thwarted because of the pre-emptive actions.

According to him, 42 militants had been killed and 114 ‘hardcore terrorists’ had been apprehended in these operations.

Those detained included militants belonging to the TTP, Al Qaeda and affiliated outfits.

At least 17 soldiers were killed in the countrywide counter-terrorism operations over the past two and a half months, 42 in North Waziristan and 23 in other tribal agencies.

The spokesman said North Waziristan’s main access road had been cleared up to Dattakhel. The alternate Jhallar-Bichi road has also been cleared.

“So far, security forces have cleared major towns of Miramshah, Mirali, Datta­khel, Boya and Degan, which were considered strongholds of terrorists,” he said.

The army claimed that 27 ‘factories’ of improvised explosive devices, a rocket manufacturing unit and an ammunition plant run by terrorists had been destroyed. It said large quantities of arms and ammunition, communication equipment and other logistic facilities used by terrorists had also been destroyed.

According to a statement issued by the military, 269 soldiers were injured.

It said the militants’ ability to carry out attacks as a coherent force had been impaired.

However, the banned TTP’s spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan alleged in a press statement that only 25 to 30 of his companions had been killed, while over 60 civilians had died in bombings. He claimed that the militants had shifted their bomb factories and training centres to safe places.

The claims of the army and militants could not be verified through independent sources.

Meanwhile, the authorities concerned have distributed 19,376 tons of ration among 97,570 displaced families from North Waziristan at six points set up in Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan and Tank. Thousands of patients have been treated at mobile health units and hospitals.

Published in Dawn, September 4th, 2014

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