Army consolidates gains in Waziristan

ISLAMABAD: Twenty Taliban insurgents have been killed as military tried to consolidate gains in its offensive against militants in South Waziristan, the army said on Sunday.

Pakistan launched a punishing air and ground offensive in the region bordering Afghanistan on October 17, with 30,000 troops backed by fighter jets and helicopter gunships laying siege to Taliban bolt-holes.

‘In the last 24 hours, 20 terrorists have been killed and eight soldiers, including an officer were injured,’ the military said in its daily statement.

The military provides the only regular information coming from the frontlines. None of the details can be verified because communication lines are down and journalists and aid workers barred from the area.

Three militants were killed in gunfights as troops recovered a cache of arms and ammunition in the town of Sararogha, a former Taliban stronghold.

The army said troops had ‘consolidated’ positions there.

Another 12 militants were killed and eight soldiers injured in a battle near Kaniguram village –which the army says they have captured—while five more rebels were killed in fighting elsewhere in the region.

The tribal belt has been dubbed by Washington the most dangerous place in the world because of an abundance of Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

The army claims to have stormed a number of key Taliban strongholds including Sararogha, Makin and Kaniguram.

They say nearly 480 militants and 42 soldiers have been killed since the offensive began.

The long-awaited assault on South Waziristan came after a spring offensive in the northwestern Swat valley and Malakand.

In July, the government declared the Swat offensive a success but sporadic outbreaks of violence continue.

The South Waziristan offensive has displaced more than 250,000 people and the United Nations has urged Pakistan to ensure safety and security of civilians during the operation. — AFP

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