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.
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.