Takht Bai, Pakistan Pakistan launched air and ground attacks against up to 7,000 Taliban militants entrenched in a northwestern valley Wednesday, killing dozens holed up at emerald mines and on forested hillsides following urgent U.S. demands to step up the fight against the insurgents.
With militants fighting back and weary refugees lining up at camps, the operation will be a test of whether the army has the will, capability and political support to defeat an enemy that had three months under a now-shattered peace deal to rest and regroup.
“It is an all-out war there. Rockets are landing everywhere,” said Laiq Zada, 33, who fled the Swat Valley and is living in a government-run tent camp out of the danger zone. “We have with us the clothes on our bodies and a hope in the house of God. Nothing else.”
Washington has said it wants to see a sustained operation in Swat and surrounding districts, mindful of earlier, inconclusive offensives elsewhere in the Afghan border region. Eight years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the area remains a haven for al-Qaida and Taliban fighters blamed for spiraling violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan.