30 Taliban Militants Killed in Pakistan

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Fighter jets pounded Pakistan's volatile northwest, killing at least 30 Taliban and destroying a large cache of ammunition, the army said Saturday, as advancing ground troops tried to flush militants from their hide-outs.

The five-month-old civilian government initially sought to hold peace talks with insurgents, something former President Pervez Musharraf briefly tried as well before he was forced from power two weeks ago.

But the government has increasingly intensified military action against Al-Qaida- and Taliban-linked militants, especially in the tribal regions along the Afghan border — a rumored hide-out of Usama bin Laden.

The insurgents have threatened to intensify a campaign of suicide bombings unless the operations cease. They have carried out three deadly attacks in recent days, including one that left 67 dead.

Army spokesman Major Nasir Ali said at least 30 Taliban were killed Friday when fighter jets pounded militants in Swat Valley, a once-popular tourist destination.

A cache of ammunition exploded when it was hit in one of the strikes, he said, adding that group troops were meanwhile advancing into the region Saturday.

Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan said eight of his men, including a local commander, were killed.

The violence followed news that Asif Ali Zardari, the man poised to be voted Pakistan's next president in a Sept. 6 election by lawmakers, had moved into a tightly guarded government compound over security fears.

Zardari's late wife, ex-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated in a Dec. 27 gun-and-bomb attack during an election campaign rally. Musharraf's government at the time blamed a local Taliban group for that attack.