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Pakistani forces kill 700 Taliban men

By Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
May 11, 2009 15:40 IST
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A major military operation in Pakistan's restive northwest region has killed around 700 Taliban militants and the offensive will continue till all the terrorists are eliminated, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Monday.

"The operation will continue till the last Taliban militant is eliminated," Malik told media persons at the Islamabad airport on his return from the US. Malik's remarks come as Pakistani army and fighter jets resumed their pounding of Taliban positions after a nine hour pause ordered to lead the trapped civilians reach safer areas.

Already according to the UN estimates, over 360,000 people have escaped from the three-worse affected areas of Dir, Swat and Buner.

Malikm, who was part of President Asif Ali Zardari's delegation for a trilateral summit with the Afghan and US Presidents, said 20 security personnel were killed and 29 others injured in the operations so far.

The military operation is the "best option" against the Taliban militants, Malik said, adding he favoured such action. "It is a test for the whole nation," he said, urging the people to stand behind the armed forces at a difficult time.

Malik said he expected the hostilities would displace around 400,000 people and urged the world community to help the displaced persons. However, other international aid agencies have estimated that the about a million people have been displaced by the fighting.

They have said a humanitarian crisis is imminent as Pakistan is facing its worst refugee crisis since the partition of the subcontinent in 1947.

Replying to a question, Malik said a new force will be created for border security. He added that joint patrolling of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border is not possible. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had on May 7 deployed the armed forces to eliminate militants in Swat and other nearby areas who had violated a nearly three-month-old peace deal and challenged the writ of his government.

Despite the operations carried out by the security forces, the Taliban are still in control of Mingora, the main city in the Swat valley. Thousands of people are fleeing from Swat and other parts of Malakand division.

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Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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