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Archive for Saturday, August 30, 2008

Presidential favorite under guard

August 30, 2008

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— Pakistan's presidential front-runner has moved into a tightly guarded government compound over security fears, officials said as a militant campaign against the government led to more violence in the country's volatile northwest.

The army said today at least 30 Taliban were killed in fresh air strikes.

The party of Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of slain ex-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, has sought to assure the U.S. since Pervez Musharraf's ouster as president that it is committed to battling terrorists.

The country has been hit by a string of suicide bombings this month, including one last week that left 67 dead, many of them civilians.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told reporters Friday that Zardari - who is widely expected to win a Sept. 6 presidential election by lawmakers - was staying at a hilltop mansion in Islamabad's government quarters "for security reasons."

He did not elaborate, but an intelligence official said there had been reports that the presidential candidate could be the target of an attack and that he had switched locations after Musharraf's Aug. 18 resignation.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

Pakistan's 5-month-old civilian government initially sought to calm militant violence by holding peace talks, something Musharraf briefly tried as well.

But it has increasingly intensified military action against al-Qaida- and Taliban-linked militants in the northwest, especially in the tribal regions along the Afghan border - a rumored hide-out of Osama bin Laden.

Army spokesman Maj. Nasir Ali said today at least 30 Taliban were killed when the military backed by fighter jets destroyed some of militant hide-outs in Swat Valley, a once-popular tourist destination, on Friday.

Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan earlier said eight militants, including a local commander, had died.

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