Pakistani forces attacked Taliban fighters on Wednesday killing at least 64 of them, the military said, after the United States called on the Pakistani government to show its commitment to fighting expanding militancy.
Expanding Taliban influence in nuclear-armed Pakistan has spread alarm at home and abroad and will be a core issue when United States President Barack Obama meets his Afghan and Pakistani counterparts Hamid Karzai and Asif Ali Zardari in Washington later on Wednesday.
A February peace pact, signged between the government and and Taliban, aimed at ending Taliban violence in Swat has collapsed and thousands of people fled from Mingora, the region’s main town, on Tuesday after a government official said fighting was expected.
The military launched attacks on the outskirts of Mingora, the main town in Swat, 130 km northwest of Islamabad, and in the nearby district of Buner.
While a curfew kept people off Mingora’s streets, government forces struck militant targets with artillery and helicopters, including an emerald mine the Taliban had taken over.
“There have been two quick offensives by security forces. We knocked the militants out and are moving forward,” said a security official who declined to be identified.
The army said 37 militants were killed in the clashes in Swat, 35 of them at the mine, while two soldiers were killed in a bomb blast.
A militant headquarters near Mingora was also destroyed, the military said.
A paramilitary force said 27 militants were killed in Buner. There was no independent confirmation of the toll.