Thursday, May 21, 2009

Pak forces capture key area in Swat

Taliban shaving beards and are trying to mix with the local population !

Locked in fierce gun battles with the Taliban in a mountain stronghold of militants in the northwest, Pakistani troops have "fully secured" a strategic plateau in Swat even as government sought urgent global aid for two million civilians displaced by the military operation.

At least eight security personnel and several militants were killed in the fresh fighting as the troops continued their push towards Mingora, the main city in Swat district that is still controlled by the Taliban.

The military said troops had succeeded in fully securing Banai Baba Ziarat, the highest point in the area and a militant stronghold.

Troops also strengthened their positions at Kanju and Takhtaband, two key areas located near Mingora, after overcoming resistance from militants.

Militant commander Abu Tariq was among several Taliban fighters killed in the fighting. Seven militants were also apprehended, the military said in a statement.

Five soldiers were killed and seven more, including an officer, were injured in fighting across Swat valley, the statement said.

TV news channels reported that another three security personnel and four militants were killed in nearby Dir district.

A captain was among two security personnel killed when a security forces convoy was attacked by militants on the Timergarha-Maidan road in Dir. Five security personnel, including a colonel, were injured in the same attack, TV channels reported.

The heaviest casualties for the security forces were reported at Kanju and Takhtaband in Swat, where five soldiers were killed.

Vowing to root out militancy from Pakistan, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani sought urgent aid from international donors for some two million people displaced by the ongoing military operations against the Taliban.

The actions against the militants in North West Frontier Province and nearby tribal areas have "started producing positive results" but there are "grave repercussions in terms of massive dislocation of the local population," Gilani said addressing an international donors' conference in Islamabad.

His remarks came as security forces continued their offensive in Peochar, a remote valley in Swat where Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah and hundreds of his fighters are holed up, as well.

Commandos were airlifted to Peochar by helicopters last week as part of an effort to target the top leadership of the militants.

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