Pakistan intensifies fight against Taliban
Militants suspended peace talks with the government as troops continued an offensive in the Dir district.
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The Pakistan Army intensified its operation Tuesday against militants in the Lower Dir district in the country's northwest. The operation, which began on Sunday, has already claimed the lives of 50 militants and 13 security forces. In response, the Pakistani Taliban have suspended their talks with the government.
Religious political parties have widely condemned the operation, pointing out that it violates a peace-for-sharia (Islamic law) deal that the government recently struck with militants, and which was subsequently approved by the Pakistani Parliament. But the international community is encouraged by the government and Army's decisive response to Taliban presence in Dir. During his visit to Islamabad on Monday, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown hailed the operation and offered Pakistan continued support in its fight against terrorism.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan government on Tuesday announced that the military operation would not end with Dir and would extend into Buner and other neighboring regions if Taliban militants did not withdraw from the area.
The main military focus on Tuesday was on the Maidan region of Lower Dir. The BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says there is a communications blackout in the area.
Neither mobile phones nor landlines are working, and there is a power cut, which means people trapped in the area have no access to television news....
Reports quoting military officials said security forces had secured all the major target areas and that militant hideouts on the hills separating Dir from Swat were now being targeted.
However, our correspondent says witnesses suggest the Taleban are fanning out across the area, possibly to more difficult valleys in Upper Dir where they already have hideouts and, according to local observers, more public sympathy than in Lower Dir.