The Telegraph
Saturday , July 12 , 2014
CIMA Gallary

Pak claims win but enemy slips away

Miranshah (Pakistan), July 11: A solitary donkey wandered through the deserted streets of this once-bustling tribal town of 100,000, but no other inhabitants were to be found 10 days after Pakistani troops backed by tanks and helicopter gunships seized control.

The front doors of houses had been left open and shops were only half-shuttered. Some buildings had been destroyed by military airstrikes and artillery barrages; others bore red paint marks to show soldiers had searched there.

On Wednesday, military officials guided a small group of journalists through their most dangerous discoveries: a bomb factory, a school for suicide bombers, a private prison and a network of underground tunnels. But there was little sign of the fighters themselves.

“Yes, they did escape,” said Maj. Gen. Zafarullah Khan, commander of the three-week-old military drive into North Waziristan, the tribal district along the Afghan border that has been Pakistan’s most notorious jihadi hub. “They had smelled that the operation was about to be launched. Peace talks had failed, the buildup for the operation had already begun. So the leadership abandoned this place.”

Gen. Khan dismissed suggestions by sceptical officials in Afghanistan and the West that his forces had allowed favoured militants to flee. “We are colour blind,” he said. He added that in a difficult environment like North Waziristan, “it is not possible to create a watertight compartment where individuals cannot escape.”

The one-day tour of Miran Shah — a dusty, rugged town about 10 miles from the Afghan border — offered a rare ground-level perspective on a military operation that has been largely hidden from view since it started.