Pakistan’s army has launched a ground operation against Taliban militants in the South Waziristan region on the Afghan border.As many as 28,000 soldiers, backed by tanks and helicopters, are said to be advancing on an estimated 10,000 hardcore Taliban fighters. The three-pronged attack is designed to trap militants under the command of the new head of the Paksitan Taliban Hakimullah Mehsud. Army commanders say they have been “softening up” Taliban positions with air strikes and artillery salvoes ahead of the advance. The government has vowed to wipe out extremists after a series of attacks on United Nations buildings, the army headquarters and police stations which have killed more than 150 people in the last two weeks. The attacks were seen as an attempt to divide public opinion in Pakistan over taking on the Taliban but they appear to have strengthened the government’s resolve instead. Up to 80,000 civilians have fled from South Waziristan in anticipation of the offensive.