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Taliban kidnap dozens of Pakistani security forces

Pakistani soldiers fire toward Taliban positions Wednesday.

Associated Press

Pakistani soldiers fire toward Taliban positions Wednesday.

ISLAMABAD — Pakistani airstrikes killed dozens of Taliban fighters in a fierce struggle to drive them from a district near the capital, while the militants took over police stations and kidnapped more than 50 security forces, the army said Wednesday.

One member of the security forces also died, the top military spokesman said.

Also Wednesday, a suspected U.S. missile killed at least five alleged militants in the South Waziristan tribal region near Afghanistan, while shootouts in the volatile southern Pakistani city of Karachi killed at least 20 people.

Pakistan is acting under intense U.S. pressure to take a tougher line against Islamist militants expanding from the strongholds along the Afghan border, where al-Qaida leaders including Osama bin Laden may also be hiding.

Government forces have begun trying to force the Taliban back into the Swat Valley, from where they had pushed out in the direction of an increasingly nervous Islamabad under the cover of a controversial peace process.

Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said helicopters inserted commandos into the main town in Buner, a once-peaceful farming region in the northwest, on Wednesday morning just as ground troops fought their way in from three directions against an estimated 450-500 militants.

Security forces prevented some reporters from entering the area and telephone services were interrupted, making it hard to verify the army's account of the fighting.

Fast facts

U.S. seeks funds

The Obama administration asked for millions of dollars Wednesday to help equip and train Pakistan's army to fight insurgents inside its borders. Top Pentagon and State Department officials told the House Armed Services Committee that Pakistan's army is ill-equipped to defeat al-Qaida and Taliban insurgents. At issue is a $400 million funding request officials say would be spent on Pakistan counterinsurgency missions. The money would be the first bite of a $3 billion package over five years to curb extremism in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region.

Attacks increase: A State Department report due today is expected to show that terrorist attacks in Pakistan more than quadrupled from 2006 to 2008. The American Security Project reports separately that there is "no good news" from either Pakistan or Afghanistan.

Times wires

Taliban kidnap dozens of Pakistani security forces 04/29/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 29, 2009 11:19pm]
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