World Bulletin / News Desk
Pakistan military has launched a major anti-ISIL operation in its northwestern tribal belt near the Afghan border, according to an army spokesman on Sunday.
The assault named Khyber 4 is part of an ongoing operation "Raddul-ul-Fasad" that was launched in Khyber agency tribal region -- one of the semi-autonomous tribal regions in Pakistan that borders neighboring Afghanistan, spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor told a news conference in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.
Pakistan air force will back the operation in Rajgal, a far-flung valley that sits on Pak-Afghan border, and which the army considers as one of the few strongholds of militants in the region, Ghafoor said.
Pakistan has launched several operations aimed at eliminating suspected terror groups from various parts of its tribal belt since 2014, including the Zarb-e-Azab (Strike of Sword) operation in North Waziristan tribal region.
The spokesman said Afghan military had been informed ahead of the latest anti-ISIL operation.
Last month, Pakistani army chief had called for a greater border coordination and security cooperation with Afghanistan to contain the brewing threat of ISIL.
In the past, Islamabad insisted ISIL had no presence on its soil, in response to Afghan claims that hundreds of Pakistani Taliban fighters were now loyal to ISIL.
ISIL, however, has claimed responsibility for several terrorist attacks across Pakistan in recent months, including a suicide attack on a Sufi shrine in southern Sindh province earlier this year that killed over 80 people.
On June 4, Pakistan security forces had claimed killing over a dozen suspected ISIL fighters during a security operation in southwestern Balochistan province that was aimed at recovering a Chinese couple kidnapped by the terror group in May last.
The couple was later reportedly killed, according to a video posted on a pro-ISIL website.
Though fighters in Afghanistan and Pakistan have sworn allegiance to ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, experts say they are not directly controlled by the group.
They have also struggled to gain a foothold in the region, facing opposition from the Afghan Taliban, U.S. drone strikes and local population.
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