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.