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Pak in all-out war against Taliban; 14 militants killed

Last updated on: May 08, 2009 00:03 IST

Aiming at a "decisive" victory over the Taliban, Pakistan on Thursday pressed with air and ground operation in the north-western tribal belt, where fierce fighting killed nine soldiers and 14 militants, including a son of a hardline cleric who negotiated the Swat peace deal.

The all-out military offensive came as Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said, "strong measures" will be taken to restore order in areas affected by the activities of Taliban.

Gilani has also ruled out the possibility of further negotiations with the Taliban in the restive Swat valley.

Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said the force will ensure a "decisive ascendancy over the militants."

At least 14 Taliban were killed in intense fighting in Swat and Dir districts. Kifayatullah, the son of Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariah Muhammadi chief Sufi Muhammad, was among 10 militants who were killed in an exchange of fire with paramilitary troops in Dir, the military said in a statement.

The militants were killed when troops launched an attack to flush out rebels who had carried out a raid against security forces at Lal Qila in Dir. There were also reports of fierce fighting at Maidan, the hometown of Sufi Muhammad.

Nine soldiers were killed in a militant ambush in Swat, AFP reported. The Taliban also blew up the headquarters of paramilitary forces at Chakdara in Dir. At least 15 personnel were reported missing after this attack though there was no official word on the incident.

In Swat, fighter jets and gunship helicopters were used to target militant positions at several places, including Khwazakhela and Matta. Media reports said Taliban commander Ibn-e-Aqeel was killed with three militants in Matta.

Nearly 100 militants were reportedly killed in clashes on Wednesday in Swat and Buner districts, media reports said. "Strong measures will be taken to restore peace and order in the affected areas," Gilani was quoted by an official statement as telling a delegation of parliamentarians from Buner, Dir, Shangla and Swat districts.

The federal government will "extend all support to the provincial government for restoring law and order," he said.

The parliamentarians told him that people wanted the security forces "to take strong action to curb the militants."

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Army's corps commanders reviewed the security situation in the country during a meeting chaired by Kayani at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi. A military statement quoted Kayani as saying that the "present security situation requires that all elements of national power should work in close harmony to fight the menace of terrorism and extremism."

"The people of Pakistan under a democratic dispensation, supported by the army, are capable of handling the present crisis in their own national interest," Kayani said. He said the army has "developed full-scale facilities to focus on low intensity conflict-related operations".

"The army is fully aware of the gravity of the internal threat and will employ requisite resources to ensure a decisive ascendancy over the militants," Kayani added.

Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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