ISLAMABAD: An escalating battle between security forces and militants left more than 55 dead in a district near the capital even as Pakistan’s government pressed yesterday with a much-criticized peace plan in the Swat Valley region, officials said.
The army pounded Taleban positions for a sixth day since launching its latest assault. As the fighting raged, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates appealed to Congress to free up money for military aid to Pakistan, which is central to Washington’s strategy for stopping the insurgency in neighboring Afghanistan.
The army launched an operation on Tuesday to retake Buner, a district just 100 kilometers from Islamabad, after it fell to the Taleban last month. Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said yesterday at least 55 militants had been killed in fighting in the previous 24 hours, bringing the total killed so far to more than 100.
A government minister met yesterday with a key religious figure who claims he will be able to persuade the militants in Swat to lay down their arms in return for imposing Islamic law.
The cleric, Sufi Muhammad, suspended the talks earlier this week and demanded the army pull back. But he agreed to meet provincial Information Minister Iftikhar Hussain yesterday in the northwestern town of Timergara for talks that both sides termed positive.
Courtesy: Arab News