Shoot-on-sight orders in Pakistani tribal region

2014-06-15 20:23
(File)

(File)

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Miranshah - A long-standing curfew in Pakistan's troubled North Wazirstan tribal region has been tightened following the start of a ground offensive, with authorities issuing shoot-on-sight orders according to residents and local intelligence officials.

At least two people have been critically wounded after soldiers opened fire on them for violating the curfew in Sarai Darpa Khel village near Miranshah, residents said.

A curfew had previously been in place for several years but in reality the military only carried out patrols during the day and remained in their bases at night, allowing militants free movement.

At least ten militants were killed in attacks by Pakistani gunship helicopters in the village of Mir Ali, a local intelligence official in Miranshah said.

Ground troops were also pounding Pakistani Taliban hideouts with artillery and mortars.

Five soldiers were wounded when a roadside IED hit them in Karam Kot village, a suburb of Miranshah, the official added.

Some 40% of the region's population of half a million have already fled, leaving around 300 000 behind, multiple residents told AFP.

Many locals had been pinning their hopes on a rare tribal jirga formed by the district's top elders to negotiate with the authorities and avert a military operation.

But an all-night siege of Karachi airport last week by Taliban and Uzbek militants dashed their hopes, a member of the tribal jirga told AFP, requesting anonymity.

Local government officials said some 10 000 additional people crossed into eastern Afghan provinces fearing the military operation on Sunday.

In the district's main town of Miranshah, imams made announcements from mosque loudspeakers asking people to recite from the Koran and pray to God for the safety of those who had remained behind.

Local shopkeepers reported closing their stores and taking all their goods and valuables home.

In the Dande Darpa Khel area, a stronghold of the feared Haqqani network which is known for its spectacular attacks against US forces in Afghanistan, announcements were made in the local mosques to flee.

"Even we [Haqqani fighters] are leaving, so go to safer places for your safety," a resident told AFP, quoting a Haqqani network fighter.

Residents said home grown Taliban militants and foreign fighters have already left major towns in recent weeks and moved to the mountains on the Afghan border, raising questions about the effectiveness of an operation there.

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