RAWALPINDI (Staff Report) – At least 490 soldiers of the Pakistan Army have embraced martyrdom in the line of duty during Operation Zarb-i-Azb.

While addressing a press conference on the two-year anniversary of Operation Zarb-i-Azb Director General Inter-Service Public Relations Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa said, “June 15 is a historic day for us. Before Zarb-e-Azb, the country, including North Waziristan was plagued with terrorism.”

In the past two years, a total of 3,500 terrorists were killed, leaving 992 hideouts destroyed, DG ISPR stated.

“The army successfully seized 253 tons of explosives- enough to make IEDs from for at least 15 years,” he said while adding that 7,500 bomb making factories were closed down in Shawal.

The army launched the operation in mid-2014, in a bid to wipe out militant bases in the North Waziristan tribal area and bring an end to the near decade-long insurgency that has cost Pakistan thousands of lives.

The operation intensified after the Taliban massacred more than 150 people, the majority of them children, at a school in the northwestern city of Peshawar in December 2014.

As a result of the operation, militancy-related violence in 2015 dropped to its lowest level since 2007, the year the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was formed.

Earlier on Tuesday, General Raheel Sharif, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) visited forward locations in North and South Waziristan and spent the whole day with tribes and troops busy in the consolidation phase of Operation Zarb-e Azb.

The COAS was given a detailed briefing on the ongoing operations and rehabilitation work in the area.

While acknowledging exceptional achievements, courage, determination and sacrifices of the troops in achieving operational goals, General Raheel Sharif said Zarb-e-Azb was launched against terrorists of all hues and that the sanctuaries of terrorists had been dismantled without discrimination.

He said that the operation was is in its final stages and the Pakistan Army had achieved unparalleled success in the fight against terrorism with support of the entire nation.

General Raheel Sharif also appreciated the support of the tribal brethren in combating terrorism and acknowledged their sacrifices. He assured them that terrorists would never be allowed to return and Army would not go back till the terrorists were eliminated.