Success in the operation in South Waziristan is vital for winning the war on terror, Pakistan Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said on monday, even as troops pushed deeper into militant-held territory after consolidating hold on areas around Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud's hometown of Kotkai.
Kayani made a day-long visit to Wana, the main town in South Waziristan, to meet field commanders and troops engaged in a major ground offensive against Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.
During the day, soldiers consolidated their hold on Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud's hometown of Kotkai and another militant stronghold Sherwangi.
The success of Operation Rah-e-Nijat (Path to Salvation) in Waziristan is vital for winning the war against terrorism, Kayani was quoted as saying by Geo news channel.
The operation would be completed on time, he added.
According to a military statement, Kayani said the army is "not conducting operations against any tribe or area, but against a handful of terrorists who have not only destroyed the peace and tribal traditions of the area but have also made majority of the people hostage to their anti-state agenda".
The operations are being conducted by Pakistani armed forces "without any outside support," he said.
A day after taking control of Kotkai, troops secured the strategic mountain top of Tarkona Narai and other important features in Sherwangi area after "intense engagements" that lasted 16 hours.
Security forces had been facing stiff resistance from the Taliban in and around Sherwangi over the past few days.
Troops cleared several hideouts and bunkers to secure the mountain top at Tarkona Narai.
Four militants were killed on the mountain while eight more died when troops destroyed a vehicle that was fleeing the area. A non-commissioned officer was killed and three soldiers were injured in the fighting.
Three more terrorists were killed during a gun battle that erupted when troops were searching a compound southwest of Sherwangi.
Troops found a 12.7 mm anti-aircraft gun, rockets and mortars in the compound.
As troops advanced from Kotkai, they took control of important features to the north and west of the town.
The militants who had fled from Kotkai are targeting security forces with rockets, the military said.
The military has described the capture of Kotkai as a "very big success" in its offensive, which was launched eight days ago to flush the Taliban out of South Waziristan.
The military says over 185 militants and 24 soldiers have died so far in the fighting though the figures cannot be independently verified as journalists have no access to the conflict zone.
The army has mobilised two divisions or about 28,000 soldiers to take on an estimated 10,000 Taliban militants and foreign fighters in South Waziristan. PTI