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Taliban targeted as Pakistan vows to eliminate 'militants and terrorists'

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan's prime minister told the nation Thursday that the armed forces were being "called in to eliminate the militants and terrorists" who have forcibly occupied part of the country's northwest, sending thousands of civilians fleeing from the region in the past week.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani's announcement, made in a late-night, televised address, signaled the final collapse of a fragile peace accord between the government and Taliban forces in the Swat region. It also represented the civilian government's formal green light for a full-fledged offensive by the military.

Gillani called on all Pakistanis to unite behind the armed forces "to restore the honor and dignity" of the nation, the safety of citizens and the writ of the government.

Gillani's address came on another day of intense but scattered clashes. Military officials said the army and other security forces had attacked militant positions with warplanes, attack helicopters and tanks. They said they killed at least 80 Taliban fighters in Swat and Buner districts and nine soldiers died in an ambush and in other attacks. A son of a senior Islamist leader in Swat, Sufi Mohammed, was also reported to have been killed by army shelling.

Gillani spoke as Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, was finishing several days of talks in Washington with senior U.S. officials and leaders from neighboring Afghanistan.

President assures nukes are secure

Pakistan's president offered renewed assurances Thursday that his country, whose stability is threatened by an rising extremist insurgency, has full control of its nuclear weapons. President Asif Ali Zardari said after meeting members of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee that "all of the responsible authorities" in and out of Pakistan "are availed of the situation."

Taliban targeted as Pakistan vows to eliminate 'militants and terrorists' 05/07/09 [Last modified: Thursday, May 7, 2009 11:33pm]
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