A paramilitary soldier at a checkpost in Khyber agency, March 15. A. Majeed—AFP
Pakistan Army official says 110 militants, 23 soldiers killed in Tirah offensive.
At least 110 militants have been killed in a military operation in Pakistan’s federally-administered tribal areas, a senior Army official told Newsweek late Monday.
“The Army seized control of strategic posts from the militants and ground troops have established their positions,” said the official, who wished not to be named. He said 23 Pakistani troops have been killed and another 13 injured fighting the joint forces of the Lashkar-e-Islam militia and the Pakistani Taliban in Tirah valley.
The high-pitch battle in Khyber agency’s Tirah valley started Friday, after the Pakistani Taliban occupied the valley last month, forcing an exodus of residents to Peshawar. According to U.N. estimates, some 40,000 people from the valley—most of them women and children—are now taking refuge in the capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
The fighting is expected to continue. “The military has established its position on ground, and is advancing gradually with additional support from gunship jets and helicopters,” said the official. He said the military had suffered heavy casualties due to the large-scale targeted operation it has launched against the militants.
The offensive in Tirah valley was necessary, said the official, to ensure that the security situation in Peshawar and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province does not get out of hand ahead of the May 11 elections for Pakistan’s national and provincial assemblies.
Control over Khyber agency is also critical to ensure the protection of supply lines used by U.S.-led NATO forces in neighboring Afghanistan.