Pakistani forces backed by heavy artillery attacked the Taleban earlier today as the army continued its move to wrest control of militant strongholds in a lawless region on the Afghan border. The clashes in South Waziristan continued as US Senator John Kerry and the US Central Command chief, General David Petraeus, met with officials in Islamabad. Both the Pakistani Army and the Taleban have claimed early victories in the clashes in South Waziristan, a tribal region that al-Qaeda and other Islamist extremists use as a base to plot attacks on the Pakistani state, Western troops in Afghanistan and civilian targets throughout the world. The US has backed the military offensive in the remote, rugged area. The offensive follows a string of brazen militant attacks in different parts of the country, including an assault on army headquarters, in which more than 150 people were killed. Noor Wali, a resident of Wana, the main town in the South Waziristan region, said: "There has been artillery fire throughout the night. It was very heavy firing." The army said yesterday that 60 militants and six soldiers have been killed since the offensive began on Saturday. Intelligence officials said that at least eight more militants died earlier today in a fierce battle in the Khaisur area, where they were coming closer to troop positions. It is not known if there were any military casualties. The battle continued as Senator Kerry held talks with top Pakistani officials in a bid to head off criticism that a multi-billion dollar aid package violates Pakistan's sovereignty. US President Barack Obama signed the record $7.5 (4.6) billion dollar package. It triples non-military aid to the nuclear-armed Muslim nation to boost its campaign against a virulent Islamist insurgency. Although the Government defends the package, Pakistan's powerful military sparked a domestic showdown, expressing grave reservations about conditions that hinge some of the funds on efforts to battle Islamist extremism. The senator, who was a key author of the five-year package aiming to build schools, roads and democratic institutions, was to begin his talks with Pakistan's army chief of staff Ashfaq Kayani later today. He is also scheduled to meet President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Pakistan's main opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, US embassy officials said. The Bill prevents the funding from being used for nuclear proliferation, to support militants or to attack neighbouring countries namely India and calls for a cut-off in aid if Pakistan fails to crack down on extremists. US lawmakers issued a statement saying that the plan did not impose conditions, infringe Pakistani sovereignty or dictate national policy. Gneral Petraeus, who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was also in Pakistan today to visit top officials.