ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Oct. 17 (UPI) -- At least 12 Pakistani soldiers were killed early Saturday as the army moved into South Waziristan in an offensive against Taliban strongholds.
Tanks backed by helicopter gunships rolled into the region from the east, south and west, The Daily Telegraph of London reported. Generals promised the offensive would be "the mother of all battles."
Before the troops began moving, Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani. chief of Army staff, summoned leaders of opposition parties to a meeting Friday at the house of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, where they were asked to support a strong offensive targeting Pakistanis, officials said. Recent Taliban attacks, like the one on the Army headquarters in Rawalpindi, had led to reduced political opposition to a drive against the Taliban.
In the weeks preceding the offensive, thousands of residents left South Waziristan. Those who remained behind were kept at home by a curfew.
"We heard sounds of planes and helicopters early Saturday. Then we heard blasts. We are also hearing gunshots and it seems the army is exchanging fire with Taliban," Ajmal Khan told the Telegraph in a telephone interview.