Pakistan Launches Attack on Taliban

Abdul Majeed Afridi doesn't want to sell CDs anymore. He doesn't want to spend his days in his hometown. All he wants is for the militants to leave.

"These thugs and kidnappers have tried to become the Taliban of the area," he told ABC News from Dara Adam Khel, a village in the tribal region of northwest Pakistan. "Residents are not happy with these people, and I hope this operation carries on until they're all finished."

That "operation" is a huge clash between troops and militants, launched Friday by Pakistan, part of an ominous trend of the military, battling its enemies closer and closer to major population centers.

Frontier corpsmen, backed by artillery and helicopter gunships, attacked hideouts, used by Taliban militants, in a battle that the military says will take "days."

"We tried to negotiate, this morning, and when all the negotiations failed, we had no option," said Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, a spokesman for the military. "Twenty-five to 30 miscreants have been killed, and two security forces were killed."

It is the first time that the Pakistani frontier corps has battled militants in Dara Adam Khel, a town that is no stranger to guns, but has not, up until now, hosted the radicals, who the government blames for more than 20 suicide attacks in the last three months, including the one that killed former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

The influence of the Taliban is spreading to previously peaceful urban areas in northwest Pakistan, towns like Peshawar and Mardan and, today, Dara Adam Khel. You can see it in the CD and DVD shops that have closed, the schools that have been threatened, because the female students aren't wearing burqas, and in the fear among the local residents.

"The militancy is spreading. The militants have become much more bolder, and much more effective," says Talat Masood, a retired army general, who has become a vocal critic of the government. "The frontier corps is least prepared for this sort of insurgency. They're not meant for this role at all."

Dara Adam Khel lies along a route that connects the Northwest Frontier Province with the heart of the country. Just to the south is Waziristan, a Taliban stronghold. To the north is Peshawar, the area's largest city, and the army's regional headquarters. Politicians in Peshawar describe a town that used to be free of violence. Now, there is a rocket launch, or suicide attack, or bomb blast once a week.

"People are fed up," Afridi said from Dara Adam Khel. "A lot of people have started to leave the area, because they think the operation will take some time."

So many people have had to flee their homes, the government has set up a temporary camp in the Tank area of the frontier, for the displaced, the BBC reported. Tents and food are available for residents who are too scared to stay at home.

Violence creates fear, and that fear has spread from the border regions to the cities, including the capital of Islamabad, which has, so far, been spared from the most recent spate of attacks.

"You never know what's going to happen. Bomb blasts everywhere," Tehseen Shah, who recently moved to Spain and is trying to relocate his wife there, told ABC News, while sitting in his old bedroom in Islamabad. "We are not safe when we go to the market. There's a lot of people around us, and from inside our hearts, [we fear] there might be a bomb blast."

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