Military says 32 fighters were killed in an operation in the northwestern Tirah valley close to Afghan border.
Tank, Pakistan – Ten-year-old Fatima is one of the few people smiling at the Kaur Fort IDP repatriation camp, about 20km west of the frontier town of Tank, one of the entrances to Pakistan’s tribal belt.
She’s one of about 21,000 people returning home to the South Waziristan tribal area, the birthplace of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), after having fled the conflict there six years ago.
In all, almost half a million people were forced to flee South Waziristan in 2009, when the Pakistani military began an operation to clear the area of the TTP, an umbrella organisation of armed religious groups then led by its founder, Baitullah Mehsud.
The operation was one of the first against armed anti-state fighters in the tribal belt, and marked the beginning of operations across the seven tribal agencies of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) that continues to this day.
More than 4.3 million people have been displaced from Pakistan’s tribal areas over the last few years, with some operations seeing the mass clearance of the entire civilian population from districts.
Of those, about 2.2 million people remain displaced, and about 422,000 are from South Waziristan.
Now, those people are returning home in an effort spearheaded by the Federal Disaster Management Authority, and assisted by the Pakistani military.