Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ground forces move in for Pakistan offensive

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistani ground troops moved into Taliban-controlled areas Friday and engaged in the first gunbattle of a new offensive in the volatile northwest, as an aerial and artillery bombardment pounded other targets.

Officials said Friday's action did not represent the start of a full-scale operation in the tribal belt along the border with Afghanistan, but that most troops were now in place for when the orders came.

The coming operation in South Waziristan, along with one winding down in the Swat Valley further north, could be a turning point in Pakistan's yearslong and sometimes halfhearted fight against militancy.

It could also help the war effort in Afghanistan, because the tribal belt is believed to house key bases of al-Qaida and Taliban militants accused of launching attacks on Western and government forces in Afghanistan.

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