Pakistan fights Taliban to gain northern valley

Pakistan forces battled Taliban guerrillas for control of a strategic northern valley for a fourth day yesterday, reportedly killing up to 60 militants, as the government opened talks with an influential cleric to try and end the violence.

The militants were still in control of parts of Buner valley, just 60 miles northwest of Islamabad, though troops had secured the main town of Daggar on Wednesday, after helicopters dropped troops behind enemy lines.

The ground troops had established links with the soldiers airlifted to Daggar, but heavy fighting continued elsewhere in the valley, according to military spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas. "The kind of resistance militants are offering shows what are their objectives. Resistance is still continuing," he told a news conference in Rawalpindi, a garrison town adjoining Islamabad.

Some 170 militants are reported to have been killed in the fighting since Sunday.

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