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Pakistan shelling Taliban hideouts in Bannu district

SOLDIERS started shelling Taliban hideouts in Bannu district in Pakistan's northwest yesterday, a local government official said.

It was not immediately clear if the shelling signaled the opening of a new front against militants. Pakistan's military has already launched an offensive against the Taliban in a separate region in the northwest, the Swat Valley.

The region is next to the border districts where al-Qaida and the Taliban are believed to be seeking to plan attacks on American forces in Afghanistan.

Kamran Zeb Khan, Bannu's district coordination officer, said the shelling began after a deadline given to tribal leaders in the region to hand over militant suspects had expired.

Security forces were firing artillery in an area of Bannu called Jani Keel, Khan said, adding that a curfew had been imposed in all surrounding areas.

Top military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas would not confirm or deny the reports of shelling in Bannu. He said only that Pakistani troops had been preparing an operation against tribesmen in the region.


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