Pakistani offensive in northwest endangers peace deal, says Taliban
The Pakistani government says it killed at least 46 militants as part of a two-day offensive in the country's northwest, prompting a Taliban spokesman to call a recently signed peace deal "worthless."
Paramilitary troops killed 20 militants on Monday in Lower Dir, an area of the northwest that borders Afghanistan, said an army statement. Army forces also killed at least 26 militants in the area, including one Taliban commander, on Sunday, the military said.
The military first sent troops and helicopter gunships to attack Taliban militants in Lower Dir in the North West Frontier Province on Sunday, forcing hundreds of civilians to leave. The area is part of a region covered by a peace pact signed two weeks ago by President Asif Ali Zardari that allows Taliban militants who control the area to impose Islamic law in exchange for a ceasefire.
"The agreements with the Pakistan government are worthless because Pakistani rulers are acting to please Americans," said Muslim Khan, a spokesman for Taliban militants, referring to the offensive.
Pakistan had come under increasing pressure by U.S. and other western governments to do more to curtail the growing influence of the Taliban in parts of the country.
The cleric who mediated the peace deal was trapped in his home because of the army attacks, his spokesman said.
The spokesman ruled out further talks with the government until the military stopped its operation. But Izzat Khan told Agence France-Presse that the Taliban would continue to honour the peace deal.
In recent days, Taliban forces from a stronghold in the northwestern Swat valley began entering and taking control of Buner, a district 100 kilometres from the Pakistani capital, stirring international alarm.
With files from The Associated Press