ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The Pakistani government launched a long-expected military operation against terrorists in the North Waziristan region on Sunday, just one week after militants killed at least 38 people in an all-night battle at the nation’s busiest airport.
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The Taliban and ethnic Uzbek fighters — who aim to topple the Pakistani government — have claimed responsibility for the attack on the Karachi airport.
“Our valiant armed forces have been tasked to eliminate these terrorists regardless of hue and color, along with their sanctuaries,” the Pakistani military said in a statement.
The military is sending troops, artillery and helicopter gunships in an attempt to force the insurgents from their hideouts, but it is unclear where in North Waziristan the operation would be carried out.
“With the support of the entire nation, and in coordination with other state institutions and Law Enforcement Agencies, these enemies of the state will be denied space anywhere across the country,” the military said.
At least 80 militants were killed Sunday when fighter jets targeted hideouts in the region, according to Reuters. Combat aircraft pounded the area again on Monday, Reuters reported.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wished to avoid the operation, hoping to resolve the conflict through negotiations with the Taliban, but the defense ministry said in a statement that the option of talks had expired.
"We as a government tried our level best to resolve this crisis through dialogue," the defense ministry said in a statement. "We were frustrated through attacks on innocent Pakistanis and damage to national assets."
After the airport attack, families started fleeing into other parts of Pakistan and officials said a curfew had been imposed.
Elisha Fieldstadt contributed to this report from New York. Reuters also contributed.
First published June 15 2014, 1:32 PM
Wajahat S. Khan
Wajahat S.Khan is a correspondent and producer for NBC News based in Islamabad, covering South Asia and also assisting the Kabul bureau. Khan is the national security correspondent for Pakistan's largest news network, Geo, and its largest English newspaper, The News.
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He was the first Pakistani Fellow at the Shorenstein Center for the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
Previously, Khan reported for CNN, and contributed alternative-media reportage to San Francisco-based Link TV. He anchored a popular investigative series on Pakistanâ€™s local Aaj TV, and also hosted and produced for Pakistanâ€™s first English-medium network, Dawn News.
He is also the first broadcaster from Pakistan to produce an investigative series from across the â€œdivideâ€ in India. Khan has written for most of the major Pakistani publications - The News, The Dawn, The Express Tribune, The Friday Times and The Herald, and also contributes to India Today, India's most popular weekly.