KOHAT, July 18: Helicopter gunships attacked on Friday afternoon a number of militant hideouts in Shamsud Din Banda and Ghlu Chinna areas, near the Kurram Agency, inflicting heavy casualties.

Gunbattles continued in the area till late night and security forces faced stiff resistance from the militants.

Officials claimed that the militants had retreated to the tribal areas of Sadda and Orakzai Agency after suffering heavy losses and that security forces had advanced further towards the inaccessible areas from all sides.

Five militants were killed and six injured when helicopters hit a van going to the Kurram Agency.

They said that dozens of bodies were lying in the mountainous areas of Zargari, Shamsud Din Banda, Ghlo Chinna, Kaga Waga and Sarmala Kandao. But the claims were not confirmed by independent sources.

During the five-day clashes in Hangu, 13 militants were killed. Fifteen Frontier Constabulary personnel were killed in an ambush last week.

Military officials claimed to have secured 90 per cent of the troubled region and achieve the main objectives of the operation. “Now the army or the Frontier Constabulary will set up permanent checkposts in Doaba, Zargari and Naryab to stop the militants from coming back,” they said.

Meanwhile, a meeting was held at the office of the regional coordination officer of Kohat, Mr Omer Khan Afridi to discus a relief plan for people who have moved the district from the troubled areas.

District Coordination Officer Mohammad Siraj, deputy inspector general of police Qudratullah Marwat, District Police Officer Abdullah Khan, Businessmen Forum’s chairman Manzoor Ahmed Paracha and former MNA Javed Ibraheem Paracha attended the meeting which decided to set up a relief camp in a government school.

Meanwhile, field commander of the Hangu operation, Brigadier Hilal, claimed success of the operation while briefing the Kohat GOC and senior officials in Doaba.

Local administrations of Kohat and Hangu allowed people to use the Kohat Thall road for buying items of daily use, although the entire area remained under curfew.

While making claims about successes achieved in the operation, officials appeared to be oblivious about the fate of 29 government officials, including 10 security personnel, still in custody of the militants. The Taliban have threatened to kill them if their men are not freed and the operation is not stopped.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people held a rally in Thall in protest against the operation. They demanded withdrawal of army, lifting of the curfew and resumption of talks with militants.

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