Pakistani troops backed by attack helicopters stepped up an operation to push the Taliban farther away from the capital yesterday, saying they killed at least 55 fighters.

But the government was resisting western pressure to expand the crackdown and abandon peace talks with militants who want to impose their brand of Islam across this nuclear-armed country.

The army launched the drive to retake Buner, a poor, hilly region just 100 kilometres from Islamabad, on Tuesday, after Taliban from the neighbouring Swat Valley overran it under cover of a controversial peace pact.


KABUL — Three Americans and two other international troops were killed yesterday in an attack in eastern Afghanistan, officials said.

Insurgents attacked Afghan and international forces Friday with rocket-propelled grenades and guns, NATO forces said in a statement. The troops called in air support, forcing the militants to withdraw. They are being pursued, the statement said.

Col. Greg Julian, a spokesman for U. S. Forces in Afghanistan, confirmed that three of the dead service members were Americans. The clash was in an area where Canadian troops generally do not operate.