Pakistan says offensive death toll rises to 227

ISLAMABAD, October 26, 2009 (AFP) – Pakistan’s military said Monday that the death toll in a major military assault on the Taliban rose to 227, reporting heavy losses in the battle to control a village en route to a Taliban bastion. Nineteen militants were killed during the last 24 hours, a military statement said, bringing the overall number of insurgents killed to 197 during what is now a 10-day ground offensive backed by warplanes and helicopters.

In addition, six soldiers have been killed in the offensive around South Waziristan, where authorities say scores of Al-Qaeda and Taliban-linked attacks have been masterminded, bringing the overall number of dead soldiers to 30.

None of the information provided by the army is possible to verify with communication lines down and access banned to journalists and aid workers.

The heaviest fighting was reported on the advance towards Taliban stronghold Sararogha after the military claimed its first major success in capturing Kotkai, the hometown of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Hakimullah Mehsud.

In the fight to secure Ghalai village, on the main road from Kotkai to Sararogha, six soldiers and 10 militants were killed, the military said.

Troops also secured an im