MINGORA: An intense gunbattle was ongoing between security forces and militants in Swat’s Mingora city, DawnNews reported.
Tuesday, 05 May, 2009 | 01:24 PM PST |www.dawn.com
Frightened residents fled suburban areas in Mingora on Tuesday, where the Taliban concentrated a two-year insurgency, after the army issued an evacuation order that ignited fears of an imminent new offensive, witnesses said.
The military ordered four neighbourhoods on the edge of Mingora to evacuate and announced a break in an indefinite curfew for the displaced to flee to a special camp as bullets rattled through parts of Mingora.
Local residents said ‘large numbers’ were leaving in panic, weighed down with whatever belongings they could carry on foot, waiting at bus stations or driving away in private cars, although the military withdrew the order.
‘We have now suspended this order and people are directed not to vacate their homes because the government has no immediate plan to launch an operation in these areas,’ said local military spokesman Major Nasir Khan.
A government official said five people died overnight in crossfire between militants and security forces in Swat.
Earlier on Tuesday the District Coordination Officer (DCO) of Swat asked Mingora residents to vacate the city as Taliban told the 46 besieged security men in the city to lay down their arms.
Curfew in Swat was relaxed from 01:30 p.m. till 07:00 p.m., the DCO said on Tuesday, adding that residents of Mingora city should immediately start leaving.
On Monday, the Taliban took control of the city of Mingora and reportedly laid siege to a place housing 46 security personnel.
‘This is a clear violation of the Swat peace agreement,’ an official who requested anonymity said. He said militants were patrolling the streets and holding positions at key points and on important buildings.
According to sources, militants on Monday attacked the headquarters of security forces located in the circuit house and a police station in Mingora, but attacks were repulsed.
Subsequently on Monday, the local administration imposed a curfew for an indefinite period after the attacks. Earlier, the curfew was in force from 07:00 p.m. to 06:00 a.m. Clashes between security forces and militants were reported from Shamozai, Matta and Bahrain.
However, no casualty was reported till late night. Police have confined their activities to police stations.
A group of armed Taliban stormed the Rahimabad police station in Mingora on Monday night and blew it up. Local people said policemen had vacated the station just before the attack.
Security forces have also established check posts and started searching vehicles in the area. Shops and markets in the main Mingora bazaar remained closed for the second day because of fear and tension.
According to a handout issued by the NWFP information department, the Taliban continued their activities despite the peace accord they had signed with the government.
Over the past 16 days, five people were killed and 21 kidnapped by the militants. Three incidents of blasts and several cases of car-snatching, looting and firing, erecting road blockades and armed patrolling by militants had been reported from different parts of the district, the handout said.
Militants blew up a government high school for boys in Tindodag area of Swat on Monday. It was the second government school blown up after the February 16 peace accord. On Sunday, a government high school for boys had been blown up in Nengolai.
Meanwhile, Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan claimed responsibility for the attack on a convoy in Swat on Monday in which one soldier was killed and three others suffered injuries.
He said the attack was a reaction to what he called movement of military forces to positions in violation of the February 16 peace deal. He said the Taliban would carry out such attacks if security forces continued their activities in the valley.