MIRANSHAH: The Pakistani Taliban have abandoned their last key stronghold and booby traps and explosives littering their hideouts now present the main danger to the soldiers who control the territory, military officials say.
Instead of black-clad militants, uniformed men and the odd lone donkey wander the streets of Miranshah, the capital of Pakistan’s northwestern region of North Waziristan.
For years, Pakistan’s allies urged the South Asian nation to strike against militant strongholds on the Afghan border. Now, as Nato troops withdraw from neighbouring Afghanistan, the army launched a campaign last month to push out the militants.
A rare visit this week to Miranshah, organised by the military, showed how tightly the Taliban had held the frontier town in its grip.
“It is a city waiting to blow up, that’s how much explosive there is here, in homes, in shops, buried under the ground,” said senior commander Brigadier Tahir Malik, standing outside one of 11 bomb making plants the army says it has seized.
The explosives factory is piled high with hundreds of metal cylinders and other containers the militants used to make bombs.
Apart from soldiers, the city is a ghost town. The army ordered residents out before the offensive.
Entire neighbourhoods are rubble after caches of explosives detonated and jets pounded suspected militant hideouts.
Under the destruction lies a sophisticated network of tunnels used to smuggle militants and weapons out of the view of hovering drones.
At the Gulpakhel mosque, subterranean corridors snaked past rooms dotted with prayer mats and blankets before ending at a secret door hidden by a bookshelf. Behind lay rooms that had housed senior Taliban commanders, the military said.
Sleeping mats were scattered before freshly painted walls fitted with an air-conditioner and a sound system and lit by a six-bulb chandelier. REUTERS