PESHAWAR: The army has declared operation in Shawal area of North Waziristan successful and started clearing improvised explosive devices and other unexploded ordnance in the area.
The Inter-Services Public Relations said in a statement here on Monday that Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif visited the embattled area near the Afghan border and he was briefed by formation commanders about operational gains achieved so far.
More than 800km area has been secured in Shawal and heavy casualties have been inflicted on terrorists since the start of the last phase of Operation Zarb-i-Azb in February, it said.
A security official said the ongoing phase of the operation had been accomplished successfully and troops were holding all important locations near the border.
“Levels one and two of the operation have been completed in Shawal and clearance of IEDs and other explosive items is in progress,” he said, adding that after successful completion of the last phase, kinetic operations would continue for a few days before a formal announcement of the end of Zarb-i-Azb in North Waziristan.
The Operation Zarb-i-Azb was launched in June 2014 to eliminate terrorist networks from the area. Officials said around 4,000 militants had been killed and tons of explosives and units of IEDs were recovered in Miramshah, Mirali and other areas.
The operation had forced more than one million civilians to leave their homes and they had taken refuge in settled areas of the country. Return of displaced families to their homes is in progress.
The ISPR said that Gen Raheel reviewed progress of last phase of operation in Shawal and spent the whole day with troops busy in eliminating terrorists from their last bastion close to the Afghan border.
Lauding successful completion of the Shawal operation, he acknowledged exceptional achievements, courage, determination and sacrifices of troops in achieving the objectives.
He, however, emphasised consolidating the gains and resettling the displaced people back in their areas.
Talking about breaking the nexus between terrorists and their facilitators sitting outside Fata, Gen Raheel ordered large-scale combing ops immediately to seek out terrorists, their sleeper cells and facilitators in areas other than Fata and enhance the reach of law enforcement agencies.
Speaking to officers and men in Shawal Valley, he said: “Standing shoulder to shoulder with us, the entire nation highly values the sacrifices being rendered in this fight against terrorism.”
Sources said that after completion of combat operation in North Waziristan the army had raised brigade size units to assist the civil administration in inaccessible areas of Fata, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and other parts of the country.
Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2016