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Pakistan Military Denies Reports of New Offensive

Map of Pakistan
Map of Pakistan
The Pakistani military is denying reports it has begun a new ground offensive targeting militants in the country's northwest.

Western news agencies said Thursday troops have moved into the North Waziristan tribal region in the first major operation against Taliban and other al-Qaida-linked militants in years.

But a military statement said soldiers were conducting a clean-up operation Thursday, a day after air strikes killed what the military called at least 60 "hardcore terrorists" including "important commanders and foreigners." Four soldiers were also killed Wednesday during a clash near Mir Ali.

The military said no new air strikes were carried out in North Waziristan, and instead army personnel were demolishing suspected militant hideouts in the village of Machis.

Local residents have told VOA Deewa Radio that at least 71 people have been killed in two days, including civilians. A curfew remains in effect in the region.

Pakistani defense analyst Saad Muhammad said "there is a longstanding demand for an operation in North Waziristan, but reports of civilian casualties and the bombing of civilian areas will make the integrity of such an operation doubtful."

North Waziristan is a known stronghold of the Taliban and other militants linked to al-Qaida.

Pakistan's military said in the last few weeks, a large number of civilians and security forces personnel have been killed in suicide attacks and roadside blasts in the country's tribal areas, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and the southern city of Karachi.

The Pakistani Taliban last month formally ended a 40-day ceasefire, saying the government had continued to arrest people, kill suspected insurgents and not comply with their demands to release non-combatant prisoners.
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