ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistani soldiers closed in on two major Taliban strongholds in South Waziristan on Saturday, officials said, as government jets pounded insurgent hideouts and the prime minister said the country had no choice but to defeat the militants.
"We are at war," Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told a news conference in the city of Peshawar, where a militant car bomb a few days ago killed more than 115 people. "Our civil leadership, our military leadership and political leadership … we are on the same page that we have to fight the militancy. We do not have any other option because their intentions are to take over" the country.
Pakistan, which years ago helped nurture the Taliban's rise in neighboring Afghanistan, is now involved in an escalating fight with the militants. Two weeks ago, the government launched the offensive in the South Waziristan tribal region, viewed as the main stronghold in the country of the Taliban and al-Qaida. The offensive has drawn retaliatory militant attacks across Pakistan.
Saturday, seven paramilitary soldiers driving through the Khyber tribal area were killed by a roadside bomb, said local official Ghulam Farooq Khan. The area is famed for the Khyber Pass, the main route for ferrying supplies to U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
That attack came as Pakistani jets bombed three hide-outs of Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud, killing at least eight, intelligence officials said. Another airstrike, about 40 miles away , killed seven.