Pakistan steps up offensive against Taliban in Buner

Islamabad, April 29 (Inditop) Pakistani security forces Wednesday stepped up the offensive against the Taliban fighters in the restive North West Frontier Province’s Buner district with helicopters being used to reach mountainous areas.

“Security forces’ troops dropped down by helicopters on mountains as operation continued in Buner and remote areas,” the News International reported.

Security forces, backed by artillery, gunship choppers and jet fighters, are targeting the militants in Buner.

Pakistani military Wednesday took control of a key town in Buner district, a media report said.

Pakistan’s interior ministry chief Rehman Malik Tuesday told Geo TV that there was a threat of reaction from militants in other parts of the country following launch of a major military offensive in Buner.

He said that the government would launch operation in every area where writ of the state was challenged.

“Time for Taliban militants has ended,” he was quoted as saying.

At least 70 militants were killed by the security forces in Lower Dir while nearly 450 terrorists were holed up in Buner area, Malik said Tuesday, adding “we will not tolerate them anymore”.

The North West Frontier Province (NWFP) government and Taliban-backed radical cleric Sufi Mohammad had Feb 16 signed a controversial peace accord to impose Sharia laws in Swat and six other districts of the province in return for the militants laying down their arms.

President Asif Ali Zardari baulked at ratifying the accord in the face of strident international pressure and tossed the deal to parliament, which approved it April 13. Zardari approved it the same night and the accord came into force two days later.

The Taliban, however, did not keep their end of the bargain and moved south from Swat to seize control of Buner district last week.

While some of them moved out after intervention from Sufi Mohammad, chief of Tehrik Nifaz Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM), a Taliban-aligned group, the bulk of the militants had stayed back, prompting the security forces to act against them.