Pakistan's army has completed its ground offensive against the Taliban in the country's South Waziristan tribal region, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Saturday.

Gilani said Pakistani forces may move farther north to Orakzai, another tribal area along the Afghan border.

He didn't elaborate on the scale of any possible offensive but said talks on the military's next move were continuing.

There has been no comment from the army, which sent 30,000 troops into battle in mid-October. Since then, it has managed to drive the militants from their main bases, but hundreds of people have been killed in revenge attacks around Pakistan.

On Wednesday, the military said the fighting has so far left 589 militants and 79 soldiers dead.

None of the top Pakistani Taliban leaders has been captured or killed in the offensive and many are believed to have fled to North Waziristan and Orakzai. The latter has been the home base for Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud.

Access to the tribal regions is severely restricted, making independent verification of such details nearly impossible.

In recent weeks, the military has occasionally used helicopter gunships to pound militant targets in Orakzai. Such air strikes could be a prelude to a ground offensive, just as they were in South Waziristan.

Some 40,000 people are estimated to have fled Orakzai in the weeks since the South Waziristan offensive began, the UN said in a statement Friday.

 

With files from The Associated Press