Advancing Pakistani troops today surrounded and were poised to storm the hometown of Tehreek-i-Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud in country's lawless tribal region as 78 Taliban terrorists and nine soldiers were killed in fierce fighting which entered the third day today.
"Troops have encircled Kotkai, the home village of Hakimullah and his suicide attack trainer Qari Hussain, capturing key heights around it and the area is expected to fall anytime," Army officials said.
The Army pincers have also closed upon two other major towns, including Wana in the Taliban heartland. The security forces advance came as 18 terrorists and two soldiers were reported killed in the last 24 hours, raising the Taliban toll to 78.
"The last 24-hours 18 terrorists have been killed in various incidents and security forces losses are two dead and 12 injured," chief military spokesman Athar Abbas told a news conference. Army was aiming to "target and neutralise Taliban leadership in the ground and air offensive."
"The high level targets are the leadership and we will get them," Abbas said as Pakistani air force jets, helicopter gunships and heavy artillery pounded the Taliban positions on mountain tops.
The Army's advance has been slowed down by Taliban heavily mining the roads and strewing the entire area with roadside bombs, which they have successfully used against US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.