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Pakistan's army prepares to strike al-Qaida, Taliban stronghold

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan's army launched airstrikes and ferried in tanks and artillery as it confirmed Tuesday that it is preparing a major offensive against insurgents in al-Qaida and the Taliban's safest haven along the Afghan border.

The military operation in South Waziristan is seen as a potential turning point in the yearslong and sometimes half-hearted fight against militancy in Pakistan. It could also help curb Taliban attacks on Western forces in neighboring Afghanistan.

But the offensive in the lawless tribal region will also be the toughest yet for Pakistan's military, testing both its fighting capability and the government's will to see the operation through, analysts said.

A Pakistani army spokesman, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, said the military had received orders to begin operations against Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, whose base is in South Waziristan.

But Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira stressed that the operation "has not been officially started."

They declined to give more details, citing operational secrecy.

Convoys of military trucks carrying tanks and artillery were seen Tuesday in the towns of Dera Ismail Khan and Tank, near South Waziristan.

Pakistan's army prepares to strike al-Qaida, Taliban stronghold 06/16/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 16, 2009 9:59pm]

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