More than 40,000 flee in violence in Swat, Terrorism still overwhelms. Piont to point gunbattle in Buner & Lower Dir.

More than 40,000 flee as violence outbreaks  in Swat

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Hundreds have already fled the Swat Valley as fighting between army troops and Taliban militants has intensified.—AP/File

Wednesday, 06 May, 2009 | 12:16 PM PST |http://www.dawn.com

PESHAWAR: More than 40,000 civilians have fled deadly clashes in Pakistan’s Swat valley, officials said Wednesday.

Deadly clashes flared again overnight in Mingora, the main town in Swat, the one-time ski resort where local officials said armed Taliban have defied curfews and occupied government buildings, making a mockery of the peace deal.

Witnesses said ‘large numbers’ of residents fled in panic, although the military swiftly withdrew its evacuation order — saying the government was not ready to authorise an offensive.

‘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.

The provincial government said it was scrambling to shelter up to 500,000 people they expect to flee Swat and local officials confirmed Wednesday that tens of thousands had streamed out of the district in less than 24 hours.

‘More than 40,000 have migrated from Mingora since Tuesday afternoon,’ said Khushhal Khan, the chief administration officer in Swat.

‘An exodus of more than 40,000 people is the minimum number — it should actually be more than 50,000,’ said an intelligence official.

Khan said a camp had been set up for the displaced in the nearby town of Dargai.

He said security forces could soon attack the militants and urged people to get out of harm’s way. But he later said the fear of fighting had passed and people could stay home, while the army said it was in control of the town.

Bedraggled men, veiled women and children piled onto pick-up trucks and led animals through streets in their haste to flee Swat, devastated by a nearly two-year Taliban insurgency to impose sharia.

‘I don’t want my unborn baby to have even the slightest idea what suicide attacks and bomb blasts are. That’s why I’m leaving Mingora with my husband,’ said a sobbing and heavily pregnant Bakht Zehra.

‘For God’s sake tell me where I can bring up my child where there are no suicide attacks,’ she cried.

‘Zehra and I had a love marriage. I don’t want to die. I want to live for my wife and my baby,’ said her 25-year-old husband, Adnan Ahmad, who had a mobile phone shop in Mingora and is studying for a degree in English literature.

‘We are leaving the area to save our lives,’ said Sayed Iqbal, a 35-year-old cloth merchant who was putting household goods in a pick-up already loaded with his elderly parents, wife and two children.

‘I’m taking my family to Peshawar because if there’s any fighting, no one can protect us,’ said Mohammad Karim, as he searched for a bus heading out of the valley to Peshawar.

Pakistan’s military has been pressing a fierce offensive in neighbouring districts of Swat, where armed militants advanced despite the February deal, raising expectations of a renewed operation in Swat itself.

Panic and confusion spread through Mingora on Tuesday after the military issued — but then swiftly withdrew — an evacuation order, and clashes between security forces and the militants broke out.

Khan said Taliban militants overnight seized control of several buildings and that four civilians were killed in the town — three in a mortar attack and one shot dead by security forces.

‘They are patrolling in the streets in Mingora and occupying many official buildings, including a police station and a commissioner’s office, which houses offices of top police and administration officials in Saidu Sharif,’ he said, adding that the militants were also laying mines.

Local police said Wednesday that the militants had vacated the buildings and dispersed into the mountains, similar to rugged terrain in neighbouring districts where they are fighting guerrilla-style against the military.

Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan said the militants were in control of ‘90 per cent’ of the valley and said their actions were in response to army violations of the peace deal such as attacking insurgents and boosting troop numbers in the region.

He accused the government of acting under pressure from the US. ‘Everything will be OK once our rulers stop bowing before America,’ he told The Associated Press by phone, adding the peace deal had ‘been dead’ since the operation in Buner.

 

Security forces kill 64 militants in Swat, Buner

 

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Clashes in Swat killed 37 militants while at least 27 Taliban fighters were killed in the nearby Buner district. — AP

 

Wednesday, 06 May, 2009 | 05:51 PM PST |http://www.dawn.com

 

PESHAWAR: Sixty-four militants were killed on Wednesday in fighting in northwest Pakistan’s Buner and Swat districts, security forces said.

The army said 37 militants were killed in two clashes in Swat, where a peace deal aimed at ending Taliban violence has collapsed.

Officials claim Taliban militants placed Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) on some of the main roads to inflict casualties on people and to impede the security forces’ movement. At least two soldiers died when they hit an IED in Swat’s Bahrain area.

The militants also fired at various check posts of security forces in Kanju, Saidu Sharif, Matta and other areas of Swat, the military said.

At least 27 militants were also killed in the nearby Buner district, the Frontier Corps said in a statement.

Clashes in Swat erupted between security forces and militants on Wednesday near an emerald mine in Mingora held by the Taliban, leaving 37 militants and 35 civilians dead, official sources told DawnNews. Militants also set two private banks on fire after looting them, the sources said.

‘There were 35 militants killed in the area near the emerald mines,’ Director-General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Athar Abbas told AFP.

‘It was a responsive action after militants attacked troops and government buildings,’ he added.

A major military offensive is likely to begin in Swat shortly with the army ready to push back militants. Gunship helicopters were already pounding militant hideouts in the district’s Mingora city, DawnNews reported.

Reinforcements have already been deployed in the valley, according to local citizens, prompting speculation that action is imminent.

Armed militants have come down from their hideouts into the cities and have occupied civilians’ houses and government buildings, military and local sources said.

On Tuesday, thousands of residents fled Swat following a government request to evacuate the area in preparation for a fresh offensive against Taliban militants.

‘More than 40,000 have migrated from Mingora since Tuesday afternoon,’ said Khushhal Khan, the chief administration officer in Swat.

The February peace deal lies in tatters, and militants have captured several important government buildings in Mingora, 80 miles northwest of Islamabad, and have taken up positions on rooftops, Reuters said.

DawnNews quoted residents as saying that the Taliban are stopping people from leaving the valley and intend to use them as human shields.

Reuters reported some residents of Mingora saying they faced dwindling supplies of food and were desperate to get out.

‘We are very scared. We want to go as soon as possible but can’t because of curfew,’ said grocery shop worker Gul Nazir.

‘We’re running out of food. We don’t know what to do.’

Operation in Buner kills another 27 militants

Pakistani artillery bombarded militant positions in Pir Baba and Sultanwas areas of Buner district, 60 miles northwest of Islamabad, on Wednesday, killing 27 militants and destroying eight vehicles, military sources and Frontier Corps were quoted as saying.

‘Today artillery engaged militant locations at Pir Baba Ziarat and Sultanwas areas. About 27 militants got killed and eight vehicles got destroyed,’ the Frontier Corps said in a statement.

Militants fired rockets at a girls’ school in Sultanwas which partially damaged the school building, the ISPR said.

On April 28, Pakistan launched an offensive in Buner to flush out advancing armed Taliban fighters.

More than 200 militants have been killed in the operation, official sources said. However, it has not been possible to confirm death tolls independently, as the terrain is remote and largely cut off.

Lower Dir

The operation against militants in Lower Dir is progressing smoothly, the military was quoted by DawnNews as saying.

Search and cordon operations continued Wednesday in various areas of Lower Dir.

Courtsey : The Dawn, Pakistan.

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