Pakistani officials have reported fresh fighting in the South
Waziristan tribal region, where the military is preparing a new
offensive targeting a stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban leadership.
Officials say jets firing on suspected militant positions killed at
least 14 people earlier Monday, hours after gunmen fired rockets at
local army bases. Officials say most of the dead were militants.
Witnesses say several women were among those killed. No government
casualties were reported.
Days after Pakistan's government opened up a new front targeting the
stronghold of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, officials say
they are scaling back the operation in the greater Swat valley.
A military statement says troops are in the final phase of eliminating
militants in Swat. The army says forces killed 22 militants in the
latest fighting, bringing the total to 1,592 militants killed since
Reporters have had limited access to the battle zone and have been unable to independently verify the army's claims.
A VOA reporter who recently traveled to nearby Buner district says the
security situation there remains fragile, and there is little presence
of paramilitary troops or local police.
Analysts say a key test for the government will be whether it can
secure and hold on to areas that have been cleared of militants.
Also Monday, Pakistani President Zardari urged the international
community to match U.S. aid to Pakistan to help him deliver economic
opportunities to his people and defeat extremists. Washington has
offered $7.5 billion over five years to stabilize Pakistan's economy.
Mr. Zardari also called on the rest of the world to follow the U.S.
lead in helping Pakistan deal with its millions of internally displaced
people. He made the appeals in a letter published in The Washington Post.