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Pakistani jets bomb militants, more troops move
Wed Oct 14, 2009 9:16am EDT
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By Alamgir Bitani
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistani aircraft bombed Taliban fighters in their South Waziristan bastion on Wednesday as more soldiers and tanks moved in for an expected offensive against the militant hub.
The government says most attacks in the country -- including four major ones since October 5 that killed more than 100 people -- are plotted in South Waziristan on the Afghan border.
"It was intense bombing. Three hideouts were hit," Mohammad Khalid Khan, a senior government official in the region's main town of Wana, told Reuters by telephone.
Khan did not have information about casualties but intelligence officials in the region said at least 10 militants were killed.
Residents and security officials said the military was sending more soldiers into mountains overlooking Makeen, a main stronghold of the al Qaeda-linked militants, while other soldiers were approaching from another direction.
"We've seen many tanks coming here since yesterday. Some went to their camp while others were deployed in the mountains," said Sayed Wali, a resident of Shankai village.
The government in June ordered the army to launch an offensive in South Waziristan. Since then the military has been conducting air and artillery strikes to soften up the militants' defenses.
The government says the assault is imminent but it will be up to the army to decide when to send in ground troops.
The militant attacks over recent days unnerved investors in Pakistani stocks, but on Wednesday the main index rose 1.2 percent on optimism about the energy sector.
"READY FOR ASSAULT"
A ground offensive in South Waziristan could be the army's toughest test since the militants turned on the state.
The army has not said when it would begin but a senior military officer in the region told Reuters that they were set.
"We're ready for the assault. Preparations have been done. It's just a matter of the go-ahead order," said the officer who declined to be identified. "It'll be done from multiple directions to squeeze them."
About 28,000 troops have been put in place to take on an estimated 10,000 hardcore Taliban, army officials have said.
But some analysts worry that might not be enough, especially if the army has to block militants from other factions based in North Waziristan coming to the help of their comrades. Continued...
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