Islamabad, July 19 : The Pakistani Taliban has threatened to kill dozens of hostages, including police officers, paramilitary fighters and even state bank officials if the government released four of their comrades captured last week.
The standoff has grown into one of the most serious recent challenges to the government's resolve to curb the militants' rapid expansion.
The threat comes just 10 days before Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani is scheduled to meet with President Bush at the White House.
So far, the government has held firm, sending hundreds of soldiers to the area, Hangu, in North-West Frontier Province, to engage in the first real fighting with the militants since the two sides agreed to a new series of peace deals this year.
The operation against the extremists continued for the fourth day all across the district here on Saturday. Security forces have taken control of Zargari, Shinwari and Duaba areas.
Senior Hangu district officials told Geo News that the dialogue process in the area continued and efforts were afoot for resolving all the matters through talks, but added that curfew has been re-imposed.
Earlier, curfew had been lifted after easing of tension in the Hangu Bazaar. Zargari, Shinahwari, Shamsuddin Banda and the adjoining areas were being combed for flushing out the extremists.
Pakistan defence services spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told Geo News that so far 10 extremists have been killed and several injured. He also confirmed that five security personnel had been wounded, and added that foot soldiers, gunship helicopters were also taking part in the operation.
Meanwhile, people are being shifted to safer places. Relief camps for the affected persons have been set up at Bagtu, Hangu and Kohat.