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Zardari offers peace talks to militants

February 07, 2009 04:25 IST

President Asif Ali Zardari [Images] on Friday offered peace talks to militants in Pakistan's troubled northwest even as security forces claimed to have killed more than 50 rebels in an operation in the tribal belt.
     
Chairing a meeting to review the security situation during his first visit to the North West Frontier Province after becoming President, Zardari said the government could hold talks to improve law and order in the troubled areas.
     
However, he also made it clear that the government is determined to wipe out terrorism and extremism from the NWFP
and adjoining tribal areas."The extremists will not be allowed to impose their will by force," Zardari was quoted as saying by TV channels.
     
Even as Zardari travelled to Peshawar with interior ministry chief Rehman Malik and other top leaders of the ruling Pakistan People's Party, security forces carried out an operation in an area between the Khyber and Aurakzai tribal
regions that killed 52 militants.
     
The militants were killed in two strikes by gunship helicopters, sources in the Frontier Corps told state-run APP news agency.Three militant bases, a large ammunition dump and eight vehicles were destroyed during the operation.

Zardari said militancy would be fought with all means so that Pakistan's solidarity could be safeguarded. The NWFP is facing trained and well organised militants and law enforcement agencies would be strengthened to tackle them, he said. During the meeting held in the Governor House in Peshawar, Zardari was also briefed on the operations being conducted against the Taliban [Images] in the Swat valley of the NWFP.
     
The militants currently control most parts of Swat, located 160 km from Islamabad [Images], and have banned girls' education in the region.They have also carried out targeted killings and recently abducted 30 security personnel, who were released
only after they promised to quit their jobs.

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