Pakistan Vows To Boost Offensive Against Taliban

Pakistan warned the Taliban that it would expand its military offensive in the northwest region of the country if Taliban fighters did not withdraw from the area.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Pakistan's army is fighting its way through rugged, mountainous country near the Afghan border. It's trying to root out Taliban fighters that have taken over territory in Pakistan's Northwest Province. The Pakistani government is warning that there's more fighting to come.

NPR's Julie McCarthy reports.

JULIE MCCARTHY: The operation, dubbed Black Thunder One, has sent thousands fleeing from their homes. A local relief organization estimates between 35.000 and 40,000 residents have been displaced. Eyewitness Shah Nawaz(ph) abandoned his home with more than 100 members of his extended family. They hurriedly packed - one change of clothes each and the family jewelry.

Nawaz told NPR that the civilian population had to ford fast-running streams and move through fields in order to avoid gunfire exchange and road closures. As thousands sought safety, Pakistan's Frontier Corps justified the operation on the grounds that the district was in a state of lawlessness, accusing militants of attacking security forces and killing district police.

The cleric who has mediating negotiations between the Taliban and the government refuses to resume talks until the operation ends. The security action is being closely watched by Washington. Last week, the U.S. said Pakistan was abdicating to the Taliban. But Pakistan's foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, countered that while at a meeting in Afghanistan.

Mr. SHAH MAHMOUD KORESHI (Foreign Minister, Pakistan): Please do not panic. We are political government. We believe in dialogue. We believe in reconciliation. That does not mean abdication. We will not surrender. We will not capitulate, and we will not abdicate.

Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Islamabad.

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