BANNU: Pakistan’s military shelled a strategic town with tanks and artillery yesterday in the latest round of its offensive against Taliban militants in the country’s restive northwest.
The heavy bombardment of Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan tribal district, began at 6am, according to local intelligence and military sources.
It comes after nearly two weeks of air raids on militant targets as part of an operation aimed at wiping out long-standing militant strongholds in the area, which borders Afghanistan.
“The army has started using artillery since 6am today and has bombarded Miranshah bazaar and Zafar town areas through cannon and tanks,” an intelligence official in Miranshah said.
Another intelligence official and a senior military official confirmed the information.
A full assault by ground troops has been expected for some days and the intensification of the shelling could indicate that it is now imminent.
Almost half a million people have fled North Waziristan in anticipation of a ground offensive, with many flooding into the nearby town of Bannu and tens of thousands crossing into Afghanistan.
The military says 361 militants have been killed in the offensive, dubbed “Zarb-e-Azb” after a sword used in battle by the Prophet Mohammad [PBUH], although the number and identity of the victims are impossible to verify.
Resistance from the insurgents has been relatively light, leading to fears that many of them may have escaped across the rugged, mountainous border into Afghanistan.