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Pakistan launches ground operation in tribal region: Military

AFP , Thursday 20 Aug 2015
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Pakistan on Thursday launched ground operations in a restive tribal region near the Afghan border, the military said, part of ongoing moves against Taliban and other insurgents.

The operation was launched in Shawal valley of North Waziristan hours after air strikes in the Gharlamai and Shawal areas killed 43 suspected militants.

"Ground operations in Shawal, Waziristan, begin," chief military spokesman Major General Asim Bajwa announced via Twitter on Thursday night.

He said army chief General Raheel Sharif was looking to complete operations as soon as possible.

"He (Sharif) believes coordination between air and ground force teams will be most effective," Bajwa said.

Analysts suggest the launch of ground operations shows the military is in the latter stages of its offensive in the region.

"This (Shawal) is the last outpost of militancy and I believe the military is now moving in the direction of closing the operation," security analyst Hasan Askari told AFP.

He added: "If the military don't do it in two months time, winter will set in, making it difficult for them to accomplish the task.

"It seems air raids have been successful and it is now possible for the army to take control of the ground".

Earlier in the day, air strikes killed 43 suspected militants.

"Twenty eight terrorists were killed in Gharlamai area and another 15 were killed in Shawal in precise aerial strikes," the military said in a statement Thursday.

The conflict zone is remote and off-limits to journalists, making it difficult to verify the army's claims, including the number and identity of those killed.

The army has been waging a major offensive to clear militant hideouts in North Waziristan since June last year.

Pakistan has been battling a homegrown Islamist insurgency for over a decade following the late 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

Officials say nearly 3,000 militants have been killed since the launch of the latest offensive.

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