Pakistan Kills 140 Militants in Afghan Border Region
Pakistan's security forces have killed more than 140 militants in a week-long operation against groups linked to the Taliban in the Khyber tribal area bordering Afghanistan, an army spokesman said, Bloomberg reported.
"We are going against anyone who is challenging the writ of the government," Major Fazal-ur-Rehman said in a telephone interview today from Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province. "These are militants, criminals or people involved in kidnapping for ransom. All such people will be eliminated."
The Khyber Agency, to the west of Peshawar, is on the main land-supply route through Pakistan into Afghanistan where NATO- led forces are fighting a resurgent Taliban, mostly in the country's south. About 130 militants have been captured since Sept. 1, Rehman said. Two dozen hideouts belonging to Lashkar-e- Islam and Ansar-ul-Islam groups have been destroyed.
The army turned its attention to South Waziristan and the Khyber tribal regions after Taliban militants were driven from the Swat Valley, military spokesman General Athar Abbas told Radio Pakistan yesterday, according to the official Associated Press of Pakistan.
Pakistan says the Taliban is in disarray after the defeat in Swat and the death last month in a U.S. missile strike of Baitullah Mehsud, the group's leader in South Waziristan.
The U.S. is pressing Pakistan to continue its offensives against the Taliban and other militant groups. Richard Holbrooke, the special U.S. envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, and General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, made appeals when they visited the capital, Islamabad, last month.
In Waziristan, 50,000 civilians have fled their homes to escape fighting, Abbas said, adding relief camps are being set up for displaced people. More than 1 million people who fled their homes in Swat in recent months have returned to towns and villages, according to the United Nations.
The 10-week campaign that began in April ended "organized resistance" in Swat, Abbas said. The operation in the Khyber Agency is aimed at protecting Peshawar from militants who gathered recently in the region, he said, adding that army units are also searching for arms and ammunition dumps.
The government has called on Taliban leaders to surrender after the death of Mehsud, who led the Tekrik-e-Taliban, a force of about 5,000 fighters formed in South Waziristan in 2007.