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Pakistan Army Pounds Taliban Militants in Northwest


The Pakistani military says up to 60 militants have been killed in the last 24 hours of a major offensive against Taliban fighters in the northwest.

Military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said Friday the militants were killed in Buner district.

The offensive, now in its fourth day, started after Taliban forces advanced into Buner, violating a peace deal in the region that required the Taliban to disarm. Regional authorities held talks Friday with the main negotiator in that deal - hardline Muslim cleric Sufi Mohammad. The cleric suspended peace negotiations earlier this week, at the start of the government's offensive.

Also Friday, Taliban militants kidnapped 10 Pakistani security personnel when they stormed a paramilitary headquarters in Upper Dir district, which is one of the areas the army is targeting.

Top U.S. officials are welcoming Pakistan's military offensive against Islamic extremists, saying Islamabad realizes the threat posed by the Taliban and has begun to respond.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the comments Thursday to a congressional panel considering the administration's request for more funding for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Clinton said it was heartening to see the Pakistan military begin to push the Taliban back, and she expressed confidence that Pakistan can protect its nuclear weapons.

Officials in North West Frontier Province have urged militants in Malakand region, which includes Buner district, to honor their pledge to lay down their arms after the government agreed to impose strict Islamic law there.

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