Local government officials from the Federally Administered Tribal Area of Bajaur reported yesterday that more than 100 people have been killed there for the past two weeks. According to the officials, the fighting started when hundreds of Taliban fighters poured in across the border from the Afghan provinces of Konar and Nuristan. Army claimed that almost all of the militants were either killed, or pushed back across the border to Konar, after the latest round of fighting. Most of the fighting took place in the mountainous north-western parts of the Bajaur Agency.
The militants had managed to unnerve the Pakistani defence officials, after they seized and held control over a number of villages along the Pak-Afghan border two weeks ago. It is the first time ever that the militants are succeeding in holding on to Pakistani territory for considerable time duration. Although a combined operation by the Pakistani Army, the Frontier Corps and the local militia managed to retake the villages after a few days, a number of defence analysts criticized the initial laxity shown by the defence ministry.
Jehangir Azam Wazir, senior government official from the Bajaur Agency announced that the last of the militants were driven out from the Salarzai area of Bajaur on Saturday. Wazir admitted that the resistance offered by the rebels were tougher than expected, but claimed that the security forces also showed a lot of courage in accepting the challenge.
The local media put the final casualty figure at 118. Out of this, 80 were militants belonging to the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). 18 civilians, mostly villagers from the settlements situated in the Salarzai area also lost their lives during the fighting. The security forces suffered a total of 20 deaths, including 8 soldiers and 12 pro-government militiamen. The media reports added that another 13 soldiers are listed as “missing”, and are believed to have been captured by the Taliban. As of now, their whereabouts and conditions are not known.
Villagers from the settlements of Batwar and Gambat claimed that they were running dangerously low on food supplies, and suffered a lot of hardships during the fighting. Hikmat Jan, a farmer from the village of Gambat claimed that dead bodies of the militants and the security forces were strewn across the agricultural fields and open areas of the village.