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Pakistani forces kill more than 55 militants

AN escalating battle between security forces and Taliban militants left more than 50 dead near the Pakistani capital even as the government pressed yesterday with a much-criticized peace plan in the region, officials said.

The army launched an operation on Tuesday to retake Buner, a district just 100 kilometers from Islamabad, after it fell to the Taliban last month.

Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas yesterday said at least 55 militants had been killed in fighting in the previous 24 hours, bringing the total killed so far to more than 100. He said two troops also died and eight others were injured when they were destroying a cache of explosives.

Security forces barred some reporters from entering the area and phone lines were down, making it hard to verify the army's account. A Taliban spokesman could not be reached for comment.

Buner lies near the Swat Valley, where a peace process between the government and militants has come under severe strain after the Taliban's move into the district.


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