Page last updated at 09:01 GMT, Wednesday, 10 June 2009 10:01 UK

'Many militants dead' in Pakistan

Soldier in north-western Pakistan
The army says the Taliban are being attacked on various fronts

At least 70 militants have been killed since an artillery offensive was launched on Tuesday in north-western Pakistan, the army says.

It says that the insurgents were killed in the semi-tribal areas around North Waziristan. At least one civilian has also died in nearby Bannu.

There is no way of independently checking the army figures because reporters are not allowed in the area.

Tribal fighters in Upper Dir say they too are defeating the Taliban.

Hand-to-hand fighting

The BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan in Islamabad says that the army operation at the moment is focused on the bombardment of areas belonging to the Janikhel tribe by artillery and helicopters.

At the same time the army says that troops have been deployed in the area, but there are no reports yet of a ground offensive.

The military says its offensive is "collective punishment" against the Janikhal tribe for aiding the Taliban.

Security officials accuse the tribe of refusing to hand over Taliban members involved in the kidnapping of students and teachers from a local college last week.

The last of those kidnapped was freed on Thursday.

Pakistani soldiers stand guard at a check point in Malakand
The army wants to encourage local support for the fight against the Taliban

Meanwhile tribesman in the Upper Dir area say they are continuing to push the Taliban out of the region.

They say they have made significant gains against the militants, and have secured four villages previously held by them.

The tribesmen blame the Taliban for a bomb attack on a mosque that killed 35 people on Friday.

The Taliban in Upper Dir are also being attacked by the army, who on Tuesday used helicopter gunships against them.

Upper Dir district police chief Ejaz Ahmad said that militants - including foreign fighters - were putting up tough resistance.

But he said that the tribesmen were foiling the fighters' attempts to flee.

The government has encouraged local citizens to set up militias, known as lashkars, to fight the Taliban in the region bordering Afghanistan where al-Qaeda and the Taliban are known to have hideouts.

But these efforts have come at a cost in the past as Taliban militants have retaliated by targeting tribal gatherings, or jirgas, with suicide attacks.

The fighting has displaced more than two million people, raising fears of a humanitarian crisis as overstretched camps struggle to cope with those forced to leave their homes.


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