NEW: Pakistan's Prime Minister justifies operations, saying talks failed
7 Pakistani soldiers have died in the operation against militants near Afghan border
Military says it conducted airstrikes based on intelligence on presence of militants
The militants were linked to planning the Karachi airport attack, military says
Pakistan on Sunday launched a military operation in a restive province near the border with Afghanistan in an attempt to “finish off” militants in the area “once and for all,” Defense Minister Khawaja Asif told CNN.
Asif said the operation, which included airstrikes early Sunday, was the government’s second option, but negotiations with the Pakistani Taliban failed.
On Monday, the Pakistani Taliban issued a statement calling on all foreign-run businesses, international airline companies and multinational companies to “wrap up their affairs (and) leave Pakistan immediately.”
The statement was issued by spokesman Shahidullah Shahid in response to the military’s operation.
Shahid said the Pakistani Taliban will meet any military operation with an equally damaging response and that “the government will yearn for talks and peace but will realize that it is now too late.”
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif defended the operation to members of parliament on Monday, saying that the government had tried patiently to pursue peace talks.
“On one hand we were pursuing dialogue, and on the other we were being targeted. We were pursuing talks, but from Islamabad courts to Karachi airport we were attacked.”
Sharif vowed that the operation would continue until terrorism is eliminated from Pakistan.