ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan said Wednesday it has killed 910 suspected militants and lost 82 soldiers in a major offensive launched in June in a restive tribal region near Afghanistan.
The military said it has cleared the main towns of Miran Shah, Mir Ali, Datta Khel, Boya and Degan, all former Taliban strongholds in North Waziristan, since June 15, when it launched a major operation there to eliminate local and foreign insurgents accused of orchestrating attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
It said authorities also carried out 2,274 intelligence-led operations across the country since June, killing 42 militants and capturing 114 others.
The offensive has displaced some 800,000 people, who are now living in rented homes or camps miles away from their towns and villages. The military said it was providing food aid and that its medical staff had treated thousands of displaced people.
The United States has long pressed Pakistan to act against Islamic militants in the tribal regions as Washington has launched drone strikes targeting suspected militant commanders and massed fighters. Pakistan has denied it is providing safe havens for the militants and has condemned the drone strikes, saying they often kill or wound civilians.
On Wednesday, the military said its operation was "progressing as per plan" and that it had destroyed dozens of bomb-making factories in the region.
The latest announcement by the military comes as famed cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan and fiery anti-Taliban cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri are leading mass rallies in Islamabad in a bid to force Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to step down. The two have accused Sharif of widespread voting fraud in the election that brought him to power last year.
The protests turned violent over the weekend, with three people killed and some 400 wounded in running clashes between demonstrators and police. The government still enjoys wide support in Parliament, however, and Sharif has refused to step down. The military insists it is not taking sides in the crisis.