Pakistani military officials say they have captured the hometown of
Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud and one of his top deputies,
Qari Hussain. The announcement comes at the start of the second week
of the army's offensive in Mehsud's stronghold of South Waziristan.
Pakistani officials say the military gained control of the town of Kotkai Saturday, following days of heavy fighting.
Former security chief of the tribal areas Mahmood Shah talked to VOA about the development.
"The town is not of any significance, but the mountainous area around is important," he said.
He says the army's capture of the Kotkai area will help facilitate its advance toward Makeen and Ladha, two major Taliban strongholds.
The Pakistani army entered the South Waziristan tribal region last Saturday from three different areas in an attempt to completely surround the Taliban fighters.
The military says it has killed at least 163 militants, while 23 soldiers have died.
There is no independent confirmation of the tolls, as the region is closed to outsiders and is dangerous even for local reporters to visit.
In recent weeks, suspected militants have launched a series of attacks, hitting police centers, the army's headquarters and a United Nations office.
There also have been at least five instances of violence since the Pakistani military began its offensive. In one attack on Tuesday, two suicide bombers hit separate areas at an Islamic university in the capital, Islamabad.
Shah says that despite the fact officials had anticipated acts of retaliation, the latest violence was surprising.
"We saw these attacks carry out with more ferocity than what probably the government had expected," he said.
Authorities have tightened security across the country, as well as closed educational institutions until Monday.