Pakistani army backed by fighter jets launched the much-awaited major ground offensive to flush out Taliban from their stronghold of South Waziristan tribal region, sparking deadly clashes, officials said.
"The headquarters of the Tehrik-e-Taliban in (South Waziristan) agency will be surgically targeted to dismantle the network of the terror outfit," chief military spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas told state-run radio.
The operation is aimed at flushing out terrorists, including about 1,500 foreign militants, who are believed to be behind "80 per cent of terrorist activities in the country", Abbas said.
The tribal region has been besieged by security forces by closing all key roads. Abbas' remarks were the first public comments from the military since troops launched the offensive this morning after curfew was imposed in parts of North and South Waziristan.
Troops ran into resistance soon after the campaign began. Two soldiers were killed and four more injured in an exchange of fire with militants at Mandana, said a statement from the military.
Two more soldiers died and four were injured in a gun battle that erupted when militants attacked a check post at Saidullah.
Two soldiers were injured when militants fired at Razmak Camp in North Waziristan while two more soldiers were wounded when militants fired 10 rockets at a check post near Saeed Camp.
Taliban-linked terrorists had stepped up attacks on government installations, especially offices of law enforcement agencies across the country, and this necessitated a "decisive operation" on militants in South Waziristan, state-run APP news agency quoted its sources as saying.
The militants had carried out these attacks in desperation after Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a US drone attack on August 5, the sources said.
The "well-planned attack" on the army's General Headquarters and strikes in quick succession in Lahore, Kohat, Peshawar and Quetta had claimed lives of several security personnel, they said.
The country's top political and army leadership met representatives of the main political parties yesterday to make "a final decision to root out the menace of terrorism once and for all by taking on the terrorists of South Waziristan, who were threatening the country's integrity", the sources said.
During yesterday's meeting, which was chaired by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, the political leaders were apprised by army chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani and ISI agency chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha about terrorist threats and the measures to counter them.
The government had worked on "several options" to tackle "subversive elements in South Waziristan", including agreements with them but all these efforts had been in vain, the sources said.
The last operation against the Taliban in South Waziristan was conducted in late January this year. Prior to the latest offensive, the Taliban overran two military forts and conducted numerous attacks against security forces.
The army has mobilised two divisions or about 28,000 troops backed by tanks for the operation in the tribal belt. PTI