Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has pledged to mount an all-out war against Taliban extremists, vowing to kill the militants in a military offensive.
"This is an offensive -- this is war. If they kill our soldiers, then we do the same," Zardari told PBS public television Friday, during a visit to Washington.
Pressed on whether Pakistan's stated goal of "eliminating" militants meant killing them, Zardari replied in the affirmative.
"Eliminate means exactly what it means," he said.
|Internally displaced children, fleeing military operations in Buner, stand in a queue for tea at a UNHCR camp (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) in Takht Bai , about 150 km (85 miles) north west of Pakistan's capital Islamabad, May 9, 2009|
Warplanes were bombing rebel hideouts in the northwestern Swat valley, where up to 15,000 security forces are deployed under orders to wipe out extremists.
The military said that more than 140 militants were killed.
The strike took place at a compound used by militants at Tabbi Langar Khel village , two security officials said.
News of the surge in military activity in Pakistan comes as a suspected US drone fired missiles on Saturday at a compound used by militants in restive South Waziristan close to Swat Valley.
Officials said the airborne attack caused casualties in the northwestern tribal-administered area which borders Afghanistan.
People fleeing the area around Swat Valley have accused the military of also killing civilians in the fierce bombardment taking place in the region.
The UN refugee agency has warned up to one million people have been displaced in northwest Pakistan, with tens of thousands streaming out of Buner, Lower Dir and Swat, registering in camps or sheltering with families.
The government has said it is bracing to cope with half a million people displaced by the fighting.
Zardari was in Washington for talks Wednesday with US President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai on stepping up the fight against extremists seen as a growing threat in both countries.
Zardari also said Islamabad has shifted an unspecified number of troops from its border with India to fight against the Taliban, largely holed up in Pakistan's porous western border region with Afghanistan.
"We have already done so," Zardari said when asked why Pakistan would not move troops from the eastern front.
The fighting has sunk a controversial February deal between the government and an Islamist hardliner that aimed to put three million people under sharia law in a bid to end the Taliban uprising.
Critics said the February deal emboldened the Taliban, and have welcomed the renewed military offensive, which also has broad public support.
They have warned that Pakistan must move to rebuild lives shattered by the offensive if it is to be a success.
In Washington Zardari also renewed his pledge to work for better relations with India, with which Pakistan has fought three full-fledged wars since the two countries' separation at birth in 1947.
"I've always considered India a neighbor which we want to improve our relationship with," Zardari said. "We've had some cold times and we've had some hot times with them, but democracies are always trying to improve relationships."