Pakistan launches new offensive against Taliban in Buner

Pakistani security forces backed by warplanes and helicopter gunships launched a new operation in Buner district near the Swat Valley April 28, bombing suspected Taliban targets in Kalil, Shera Turf, and Kandao areas. Fighter aircraft also bombed Mushki Pur, a mountainous area of Mardan district bordering Buner. The strikes were carried out by the paramilitary Frontier Corps in coordination with the army.

Nearly 300 Taliban militants entered Buner in early April and began to establish control there, in violation of the Swat Valley peace deal, said Inter-Services public relations director Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas. “The government warned the militants but they refused to listen and staged only a symbolic withdrawal. They government was left with no option expect to use force,” he said, adding that it would likely take a week to clear the Taliban from the area. Ground fighting continues, with the local Pir Baba police station in Buner reportedly under Taliban siege. (Daily Times, Pakistan, April 29

The US Defense Department welcomed Pakistan’s new offensive. Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said that after months of calling for more decisive Pakistani action against the militants, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other top officials are “clearly pleased” with the new strikes.

“We think that the military operations that are underway in Buner and Dir districts are exactly the appropriate response to offensive operations by the Taliban and other militants over the past few weeks,” said Morrell. “We are very much encouraging of those efforts and stand ready to help them in any which way that we could.” (VOA, April 28)

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