Islamabad: Pakistan’s war against Taliban has reached the edge of Waziristan, the suspected sanctuary of top Taliban and Al-Qaeda commanders, killing 80 militants even as extremists made an abortive bid to assassinate a senior NWFP Minister.

In south Waziristan, the main base of Pakistan Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, 400 militants attacked two military forts triggering fierce clashes that left 22 extremists and three soldiers dead, the military said on Thursday.

Heavy fighting took place in Bannu, Hangu and upper Dir, also on the fringes of Waziristan district, where attack helicopters and artillery pounded Taliban positions killing 34 militants and apprehending three. A senior Minister of the North-West Frontier Province, Mian Nisar Gul, was wounded after suspected militants ambushed his car while he was travelling to the provincial capital Peshawar. Three of his bodyguards were killed. The Minister was later rushed to hospital for emergency treatment and officials said he had received three gunshot wounds, but his injuries were not life threatening.

Ten Taliban fighters were also reported killed in Pechor in the restive Swat valley, the home town of local Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah, who carries a bounty of Rs.50 million on his head.

The Army says up to 800 militants have entered Janikhel in Bannu from North Waziristan tribal region, a stronghold of the Taliban. It has described Janikhel as the “staging area” of militants who were planning attacks across the NWFP.

Troops have secured Kotka Saifullah and Sara Bangal in Bannu and an operation to secure Zindi Khan was under way. A civilian was killed and two more were injured when militants fired two rockets at Bannu city. Three soldiers were injured during fighting near Kabal, a former Taliban stronghold. — PTI