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Pakistan's Military Launches Ground Offensive in North Waziristan

 / Updated 

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KARACHI, Pakistan - Pakistan's military launched a ground offensive on Thursday to root out militants in North Waziristan, officials said, one day after army fighter jets pounded the restive tribal region near the Afghan border.

A military official told NBC News that the ground offensive got underway early Thursday at Machis Camp, a residential area comprising 1200 mud houses in Miranshah, the capital of North Waziristan.

The official - who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press - said the camp initially was meant for Afghan refugees who had come to Pakistan but had become launching pad for militant terror attacks.

"Most of the people living there were the militants from other areas of Pakistan and some foreigners," the official said.

A curfew was put in place for the region as the army prepared to mount its operations.

Residents were asked to leave their houses on Wednesday afternoon ahead of the military movements, and local authorities said nearly all had departed before moves were made to destroy houses in the camp.

"There is no casualties in the military action on Thursday as the residents had already vacated their houses" one local official said, requesting anonymity.

Speculation that the army might launch an offensive in the frontier tribal areas has been building as the government's attempts to engage the Pakistani Taliban in peace talks have floundered in recent months, according to Reuters.

Villagers said that four helicopter gunships hovered Thursday over their homes - a day after gunships were used in a bombing campaign that the Pakistani military said killed 60 militants.

In Mir Ali - which was hit by Wednesday's strikes, villagers said the airstrikes had killed women and children.

"We weren't terrorists and had been peaceful citizens but our military targeted our houses and ruthlessly killed our people," said one tribesman, Mohammad Iqbal.

- Reuters contributed to this report.

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