Pakistan Army Wrests Town from Taliban

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ISLAMABAD -- Pakistani troops killed 80 militants and drove the Taliban from a major urban stronghold on Wednesday, the army said, as U.S. military planes brought aid for refugees fleeing fierce fighting across the northwest.

One soldier was killed and nine seriously wounded as troops battled insurgents still holding several other towns in the neighboring Swat Valley, a military spokesman said.

Launched Offensive

Pakistani troops launched an offensive last month after Taliban militants based in Swat pushed into Buner, bringing them within 60 miles (100 kilometers) of the capital of Islamabad and prompting intense U.S. pressure for a stiff response.

Government forces cleared Sultanwas, the main Taliban-held town in Buner, overnight following intense clashes, army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said.

He said troops destroyed several vehicles used by black-clad militants and defused a string of homemade bombs.

"Sultanwas was the main stronghold of terrorist-miscreants in Buner, where they have made concrete underground bunkers and ammunition dumps," Abbas said.

The army claims it has killed more than 1,000 militants and re-claimed swaths of territory recently seized by the militants.

Civilians Flee Homes

However, the clashes have prompted some 1.5 million people to flee their homes, a humanitarian emergency that could sap Pakistani enthusiasm for similar action against other Taliban and al-Qaida sanctuaries near the Afghan border.

Relatives have taken in many of those fleeing. However, more than 100,000 refugees are housed in sweltering camps south of the war zone.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced Tuesday that Washington would provide $110 million in immediate humanitarian assistance to Pakistan.

As part of that effort, two American military planes touched down on Wednesday at an air base near Islamabad laden with supplies including air-conditioned tents and 120,000 pre-packed meals, the U.S. Embassy said.

copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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Zarar Khan

Zarar Khan

Associated Press Writer

The Associated Press is the backbone of the world's information system serving thousands of daily newspaper, radio, television and online customers with coverage in all media and news in all formats. It is the largest and oldest news organization in the world, serving as a source of news, photos, graphics, audio and video.