Pakistan launches nationwide anti-militant offensive

ISLAMABA (AFP) - Pakistan's military on Wednesday (Feb 22) launched a nationwide anti-terrorist operation days after a series of bloody extremist assaults killed dozens of people across the country, the military said.

"Pakistan army launches 'Operation Radd-ul-Fassad' (elimination of violence) across the country," a military statement said.

The announcement came after army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa chaired a high-level security meeting in the eastern city of Lahore.

Troops and police have been on high alert in Pakistan after last week's wave of attacks, including one in Lahore and another on a Sufi shrine in Sindh province, killed more than 100 people.

After the attacks, Islamabad launched a violent crackdown, with Pakistani forces saying they had killed dozens of "terrorists" and carried out strikes on militant hideouts along the border with Afghanistan.

"Pakistan air force, navy, civil armed forces and other security/law enforcing agencies... will continue to actively partipate/intimately support efforts to eliminate the menace of terrorism from the country," the statement said.

Prior to last week's attacks, Pakistani forces have been engaged in a series of offensives, mainly in the country's troubled northwestern tribal region, in pursuit of Taliban and Al-Qaeda linked militants.

Thursday's devastating assault on the Sufi shrine was claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group and came after a series of violent attacks, including a Taleban suicide bomb in Lahore on Feb 13 which killed 13 people and wounded dozens.

The emergence of ISIS and a Taleban resurgence would be a major blow to Pakistan, and the attacks have dented growing optimism over security after a decade-long war on militancy.