The Pakistani security forces have killed at least 78 militants as they continued their push into the Taliban heartland in South Waziristan on Monday, the army said.
At least nine soldiers were killed and 35 others wounded since the new operation Rah-e-Nijat was launched in northwest Pakistan on Saturday.
Major General Athar Abbas, director general of the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), said 18 insurgents and two soldiers were killed on Monday in South Waziristan. Twelve security personnel were also injured.
The security forces have surrounded the Kotkai town, where Qari Hussain, the mentor of suicide bombers, lives. The army has already secured the Tor Ghundai and Shishwarm areas, in the east and northeast of Kotkai, respectively, Abbas said during a joint press conference with Federal Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira in Islamabad on Monday.
He added that an ammunition depot of the militants was bombed in the Spin Ghara area, and the security has been reinforced in the Sherwangi, Wuzi Sar and Boya Narai areas - Taliban strongholds.
He said the militants in the Sherwangi area had put up a stiff resistance but the security forces defeated them. Several militants were killed in the fighting.
The troops also destroyed ammunition stockpiles kept inside the caves between Ladha and Makeen areas through precision air strikes. Abbas said the militants brought their arms and ammunition through the Afghan border.
About 15 suspected militants were captured during operations in the Jamalasar area. Their training camps were also destroyed.
The security forces are now zeroing in on the militant positions in the south and southwest of Razmak.
Abbas said no timeframe has been fixed for the military operation, as it would raise the expectation of the people.
"There are so many people who have joined the militant organisation unwillingly, and we believe those elements will soon leave this group (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan)," the Online news agency quoted him as saying.
Kaira said all terrorists in the country have links with the militants in the Waziristan region and the government is committed to flush them out.
The minister said more than 14,000 families have been displaced in the conflict, and 11,000 families have registered for government assistance.
He said the entire area has been cordoned off so no terrorists could escape.