Skip to main content

Major Pakistan offensive aims to 'finish off' militants in North Waziristan

By Saima Mohsin, Sophia Saifi and Saleem Mehsud, CNN
updated 9:25 PM EDT, Mon June 16, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Pakistan's Prime Minister justifies operations, saying talks failed
  • 7 Pakistani soldiers have died in the operation against militants near Afghan border
  • Military says it conducted airstrikes based on intelligence on presence of militants
  • The militants were linked to planning the Karachi airport attack, military says

(CNN) -- Pakistan on Sunday launched a military operation in a restive province near the border with Afghanistan in an attempt to "finish off" militants in the area "once and for all," Defense Minister Khawaja Asif told CNN.

Asif said the operation, which included airstrikes early Sunday, was the government's second option, but negotiations with the Pakistani Taliban failed.

On Monday, the Pakistani Taliban issued a statement calling on all foreign-run businesses, international airline companies and multinational companies to "wrap up their affairs (and) leave Pakistan immediately."

The statement was issued by spokesman Shahidullah Shahid in response to the military's operation.

Shahid said the Pakistani Taliban will meet any military operation with an equally damaging response and that "the government will yearn for talks and peace but will realize that it is now too late."

Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif defended the operation to members of parliament on Monday, saying that the government had tried patiently to pursue peace talks.

"On one hand we were pursuing dialogue, and on the other we were being targeted. We were pursuing talks, but from Islamabad courts to Karachi airport we were attacked."

Sharif vowed that the operation would continue until terrorism is eliminated from Pakistan.

Brazen terror attacks in Pakistan
Battle rages near airport as CNN films
Taliban attacks Pakistan airport again

Six soldiers were killed and three were injured Monday in an IED explosion, according to Pakistan's military.

Two soldiers died in an exchange of fire that killed seven terrorists who were trying to flee, the Defense Ministry said.

Earlier the military released a statement that said 50 suspected terrorists were killed in the airstrikes. The air raids were based on intelligence about the presence of foreign and local militants who were linked to last week's deadly attack on the Karachi airport, the military said.

Asif said the Karachi airport attack was the "straw that broke the camel's back."

Here's a look at what you need to know about Pakistan

Pakistani Taliban sources said jets dropped five bombs on the Degan area of North Waziristan. The target was a meeting of Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan members, the militant group said, but added that the number of casualties was unclear.

"In this operation we will not differentiate between foreign and local militants," Asif said. "We are determined to finish them off, once and for all."

Most of the fatalities in the strikes were Uzbek fighters, the military said. The raid took place in Degan and Datta Khel.

Asif said the military hopes to conclude the offensive -- called Zarb-e-Azb in Urdu, which translates to "Strike of the Prophet's Sword" -- by the beginning of Ramadan on June 28. But it may take two or three months, he said, until "our land ... is free of this menace."

He said it is a Pakistani-only operation and the United States hasn't been asked to assist with drone strikes.

Northwestern Pakistan is home to loosely governed tribal areas. It's also a base for foreign fighters and a refuge for members of the Islamist militant Haqqani movement.

Last week, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan claimed it carried out the airport attack, which resulted in an hours-long siege and left dozens dead, including the assailants. The militants said the attack was carried out with the Pakistani Taliban.

There were reports that travelers were congregating in hotels and restaurants in towns like Bannu after being stranded due to a curfew that began Friday.

Asif said the government will help out residents.

"We are at war now. There will be inevitable fallouts," he said. "If there is blowback, we are ready and prepared to assist people who have had to flee from their homes."

READ: What the Karachi airport attack says about the Pakistani Taliban

READ: What's behind Karachi airport attack?

CNN's Zahir Shah Shirazi and Aliza Kassim contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:42 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Successful launch of lunar orbiter, seen as a precursor for a planned mission to the surface of the moon, marks significant advance for the country's space program.
updated 3:15 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, shot while standing guard at Ottawa's National War Memorial, was known for his easygoing manner and smile.
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Non-stop chatter about actress' appearance is nasty, cruel, hurtful, invasive and sexist.
updated 6:08 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
CEO's 30-min Putonghua chat is the perfect charm offensive for Facebook's last untapped market.
updated 11:45 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Chinese leaders want less odd architecture built in the country.
updated 4:58 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Air New Zealand's new 'Hobbit' safety video stars Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood, elves and orcs.
updated 10:14 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
A 15-year-old pregnant girl is rescued from slavery, only to be charged with having sex outside of marriage, shocked rights activists say -- a charge potentially punishable by death.
updated 11:33 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
After sushi and ramen, beef is on the list of must-eats for many visitors to Japan.
updated 12:07 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Airports judged on comfort, conveniences, cleanliness and customer service.
updated 1:48 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Scientists use CT scans to recreate a life-size image of the ancient king.
updated 5:59 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Despite billions spent on eradicating poppy production, Afghan farmers are growing bumper crops, a U.S. government report says.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT