Sunday, October 18, 2009
Fierce fighting has broken out as Pakistan's army launched an air and ground offensive against Taliban militants in the South Waziristan area.
Officials said 30,000 troops, backed by artillery, had moved into the region where Pakistan Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud is based.
Militants were reported to be offering stiff resistance as troops advanced from the north, east, and west.
A curfew was imposed in the region before the offensive began.
There have been several co-ordinated Taliban attacks in recent days, killing more than 150 people in cities across Pakistan.
Pakistan's top army spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas confirmed that a fully-fledged assault had begun and said that an offensive could last up to two months.
"The objective is to clear this terrorist organisation from the area, who has taken over the area, turned these state institutions, organisations out and has taken the entire population hostage," he told the BBC.
He added that intense fighting was expected during the course of the operation.
Dozens of casualties have already been reported by local officials as both sides used heavy weapons.
The bodies of three Pakistan soldiers were taken to the northern town of Razmak. There have also been unconfirmed reports of militant deaths.
Nearly all communications in the region were down after the Taliban destroyed a telecommunications tower at Tiarza, local officials said.
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