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Pak wakes up, bombs Taliban dens in Buner

Pak wakes up, bombs Taliban dens in Buner

Author: Press Trust of India
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: April 29, 2009
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/pak-wakes-up-bombs-taliban-dens-in-buner/452429/

Introduction: As US pressure mounts, Interior Minister Malik says enough is enough, sends troops

Pakistani jets and attack helicopters bombed Taliban positions in a district near the capital on Tuesday, expanding an offensive against militants seemingly emboldened by a much-criticised peace deal.

Troops and heavy artillery also joined the operation in Buner, which follows urgent calls from the US for Islamabad to step up its fight against the militants, who moved into the region this month from the nearby Swat Valley. The Taliban set up checkpoints, patrolled streets and warned locals to abide by strict interpretations of Islam. Military officials said they even indulged in unlawful activities like kidnapping and killing policemen and forcibly recruiting youths.

The offensive will cause major strains on an already shaky peace deal in the Malakand region, to which Buner belongs. The truce has been widely viewed in the West as a surrender to militants seen as slowly expanding their grip over the nation.

Maj Nasir Khan said jets bombed positions in mountains in the Babaji Kandao area of Buner. Casualty figures were not immediately known. Another military spokesman, Maj Gen Athar Abbas, said troops were also moving into the region. He estimated between 450 and 500 insurgents were in the area.

Witness Mohammad Shahid Khan said he saw tanks, heavy artillery and hundreds of troops heading over the Ambala pass leading to Buner.

Many of the Taliban were reported to have left Buner starting on Friday. But Interior Minister Rehman Malik said earlier on Tuesday that those remaining must leave or the government would take action. "Enough is enough," Malik said as he warned that "a handful of militants cannot challenge the writ of the government" and asserted that "strict action" would be taken against the Taliban who had come as close as 100 km from Islamabad.

Malik's warning came as the military stepped up its offensive against militants in Lower Dir, another district covered by the peace deal. Abbas said the Dir operation was almost complete and had killed between 70 and 75 militants. TV footage has shown hundreds of refugees fleeing the area, but officials have not released figures on any exodus.

The operation in Dir was launched on Sunday and a "few pockets of resistance" that remained would be cleared soon, Abbas said in Rawalpindi, adding that the operation was extended to Buner district on Tuesday to "eliminate or expel" the militants.

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