Updated: 07/02/2014 00:37 | By Agence France-Presse

Pakistan says offensive will hit Haqqani fighters

Pakistan on Tuesday insisted its ongoing military offensive to eliminate insurgent hideouts in the North Waziristan tribal area would target all militants, including the feared Haqqani network.


Pakistan says offensive will hit Haqqani fighters

In this photograph released by Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) on June 30, 2014, Pakistan army tanks form a column during a ground military operation against Taliban militants in the main town of Miranshah in north Waziristan

The Pakistani military also demanded Afghanistan help the offensive by stepping up efforts to eliminate the leader of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Mullah Fazlullah, believed to be in hiding across the border.

Two soldiers were killed Tuesday in a second day of ground operations in North Waziristan, a rugged border district that has long been a haven for Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked insurgents.

Jets and artillery began pounding militant targets in North Waziristan on June 15, launching an operation to regain full control of the district that Washington and other powers have demanded for years.

There have been fears that the Haqqani network, blamed for numerous deadly attacks on NATO forces in Afghanistan, would be spared.

US officials have in the past accused Pakistani intelligence agencies of links to the Haqqani network, with one top military officer once calling the militants a "veritable arm" of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.

Major General Asim Bajwa, the chief spokesman for the Pakistani military, insisted the current operation would target "terrorists of every hue and colour".

"That means any terrorist who is on the soil of Pakistan right now within the area of operation," he told reporters.

"The terrorists of various hue and colour are not wearing different caps, so this will be an indiscriminate operation -- when they (soldiers) go there they will eliminate everyone without discrimination."

The minister for states and frontier regions Abdul Qadir Baloch, speaking at the same briefing, said the government was clear that no one would be allowed to use Pakistan as a base for attacks.

"Anybody who has been involved in terrorist activities, whether he is Haqqani or not Haqqani, is very much included," he said.

Rumours of a military operation circulated for months before it actually began and there are fears that hardcore militants -- including the Haqqanis -- have melted across the porous mountain border with Afghanistan.

Resistance to the military's advance has been relatively light, adding fuel to the argument that the insurgents the army has vowed to smash are simply no longer there.

- Demand for Afghan action -

Nearly half a million people have fled the fighting in North Waziristan and Bajwa said the only people left there were militants.

So far, 376 militants and 19 soldiers have been killed in the offensive, according to the military, though with the area off-limits to journalists the number and identity of the dead is impossible to verify.

Bajwa urged Afghanistan to do more to track down hardline cleric Fazlullah, who took over the TTP leadership last year after previous chief Hakimullah Mehsud was killed by a US drone.

"This is something we have been crying hoarse -- this has been raised at every level," he said.

"The leader of the TTP Mullah Fazlullah is sitting across the border in Kunar or Nuristan and Afghanistan needs to do something about it."

On Tuesday the military released details of a bomb factory they said troops had raided in North Waziristan.

They said they found 10 anti-tank mines and 225 cylinders loaded with explosives ready for use.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, elected last year vowing to bring an end to the Taliban's insurgency through dialogue, had doggedly pursued talks with the TTP from February, but to little avail.

A dramatic attack on Karachi airport, killing dozens of people, brought a sudden, bloody end to the peace process and sparked the military offensive.

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