Facts and updates about conflict in Pakistan’s Swat

55 Taliban killed in various areas of Swat

 * Military statement says Taliban in Mingora have caused civilian casualties

 Staff Report : The Daily Times @ www.dailytimes.com.pk  10th May, 2009

We have hit certain militant positions in Mingora with helicopter gunships,” military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told Daily Times. “The Taliban were harassing the civil population and intensely involved in various activities of looting and arson in the city of Mingora and, in an early morning attack, helicopters engaged militant hideouts and reportedly left 15 militants dead,” Abbas added.

Civilian casualties: Security forces also targeted suspected Taliban positions at Rama Kandhao ridge in Matta tehsil and destroyed the main headquarters of the Taliban there, a military statement added. “Reportedly, 30 to 40 militants have been killed,” it added. Indiscriminate mortar fire by the Taliban in Mingora had caused civilian casualties, it said but no details were provided. A Taliban source confirmed heavy bombardment of the Taliban positions by jet planes and helicopters.

Pak intensifies offensive, 140 militants killed 

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Posted: Saturday , May 09, 2009  in Indian Express

@ www.indianexpress.com 09th May, 2009

Pressing with their military offensive to “eliminate” the Taliban, Pakistani fighter jets and helicopter gunships on Friday pounded militant hideouts in the restive Swat valley and nearby areas where the troops killed 140 insurgents in fierce battles.

“The Army is now engaged in a full scale operation to eliminate miscreants,” Pakistan Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told a press briefing.

The troops directed heavy artillery fire as they encountered stiff resistance from Taliban fighters. The military said that more than 5,000 militants might be holed up in the district including fighters from Waziristan and from groups like Jaish-e-Mohammed. The Army revised its estimates from the earlier 700, saying that there may be about 4,000 to 5,000 militants in Swat, who have been joined by fighters from South Waziristan and “splinter groups of the Jaish-e-Mohammed” from Punjab. Pakistani officials refer to al-Qaeda as fighters from Waziristan.

“They are on the run and trying to block the exodus of civilians from the area. During the last 24 hours, approximately over 140 militants have been killed in different areas,” he said. The ongoing operations across the districts of Swat, Buner and Dir had already killed 300 militants.

Though the Army has massed tanks and heavy fire power, eyewitnesses quoted by TV channels reported that Mingora was still being held by the Taliban.

 “Mingora is totally under Taliban control. They are roaming the streets with mortars and Kalashnikovs and there are no security forces in sight anywhere,” residents told the channels.

Fighter jets carried out raids on Friday against Taliban hideouts in Matta, Kabal and Khawajakhela towns of Swat after a night of intense gunfire in these Taliban strongholds, a military spokesman said.

“Our troops are advancing in lower Dir and last night most intense shelling was directed on Maidan town in the last 12 days,” Gen Abbas said. As Army moved fresh troops to the area, a complete curfew was imposed in all outlying areas to facilitate the movements of convoys.

 “The people have now realise

 The Pakistan Army is advancing on three fronts against the Taliban — into Buner, Dir and Swat — but the most intense fighting is reported from Swat valley. The Taliban in Swat are “battle-hardy” militants who had learned from fighting the security forces over the past few years, Athar Abbas told Dawn News channel.

d that their agenda goes much beyond the Nizam-e-Adl (Regulation) or Sharia courts… They have a design to expand their objectives and therefore the reason for going into Buner and Dir was a manifestation of their design,” he said.

 

‘Half a million displaced by violence’

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‘This will be the biggest displacement of Pakistanis since independence.’

New York Times

Posted: Saturday , May 09, 2009 at 0126 hrs IST  

Islamabad:

Day after Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani vowed to “eliminate” the Taliban, who have taken over large parts of the country, Pakistani warplanes were reported on Friday strafing targets in Swat.

 International relief agencies in Geneva said up to half a million people had been uprooted by the latest upsurge in violence, adding to a similar number already displaced by conflict in the area.

 William Spindler, spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, said that up to 200,000 people had arrived in safe areas over the past few days and that there could be another 300,000 on the move or about to flee areas in northwestern Pakistan.

The numbers were in addition to 555,000 counted since last August fleeing the areas of Dir, Buner and Swat, he said in a telephone interview.

“We could be talking about a total of one million” since last August including the latest displaced people, he said. The figure is much higher than previously reported by international organisations. Spindler said the figures for the new exodus were from provincial authorities and that the relief agency considered them reliable.

In a separate statement, Ron Redmond, another spokesman for the UN refugee commissioner, said a “situation of massive displacement” could be unfolding “as the confrontation between Government forces and militants becomes more widespread”.

The authorities had established three new tented camps to absorb some of the people “traveling in rickshaws, cars, small trucks and buses,” Redmond said, according to a transcript of his remarks. “Most carry little more than the clothes on their backs.”

 The International Committee of the Red Cross gave similar estimates on Friday of the number of people displaced by the conflict, though a spokesman for the Red Cross in Islamabad, Sébastien Brack, stressed that, due to the rapidly changing nature of the situation, “no-one has reliable figures”.

Facts about conflict in Pakistan’s Swat

Pakistan_one

Reuters

May 08, 2009

Pakistani aircraft bombed Taliban positions in the militants’ Swat valley bastion on Friday, a day after the prime minister ordered the military to eliminate terrorists and on the heels of a commitment to the United States to fight extremists.Helicopter gunships, fighters and troops were all involved in operations in Swat, and up to 12 militants were killed after as many as 55 were killed the previous day, Major Nasir Khan, a military spokesman in Swat, said by telephone.Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani had said in a televised address that militants were trying to hold the country hostage at gunpoint, and set the stage for a major offensive against Taliban fighters in Swat, where a peace pact has collapsed.Here are some facts about Swat and the insurgency there.

* Swat, about 130 km (80 miles) northwest of Islamabad, is not on the Afghan border. Nevertheless Western countries with troops in Afghanistan fear the area could turn into a base for militants fighting in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

* Islamist militancy emerged in Swat, an alpine beauty spot and former tourist favourite, in the 1990s when cleric Sufi Mohammad took up arms to impose sharia law there and in neighbouring areas of the Malakand region.

* Mohammad was arrested after he returned to Pakistan having led thousands of fighters to Afghanistan in 2001 in a vain attempt to help the Taliban resist U.S.-backed forces.

* Pakistani authorities released him in 2008 in a bid to defuse another uprising, led by his son-in-law cleric Fazlullah, who has ties with other Pakistani Taliban factions and al Qaeda.

* Fazlullah called his men to arms after a military assault on the Red Mosque in Islamabad in mid-2007 to put down an armed movement seeking to impose Islamic law. Fazlullah used illegal FM radio to propagate his message and became known as Mullah Radio.

* The army deployed troops in Swat in October 2007 and used artillery and gunship helicopters to reassert control. But insecurity mounted after a civilian government came to power last year and tried to reach a negotiated settlement.

* A peace accord fell apart in May 2008. After that hundreds, including soldiers, militants and civilians, died in battles.

* Militants unleashed a reign of terror, killing and beheading politicians, singers, soldiers and opponents. They banned female education and destroyed nearly 200 girls’ schools.

* About 1,200 people were killed since late 2007 and 250,000 to 500,000 fled, leaving the militants in virtual control.

* Pakistan offered in February to introduce Islamic law in Swat and nearby areas in a bid to take the steam out of the insurgency. The militants announced an indefinite ceasefire after the army said it was halting operations in the region. President Asif Ali Zardari signed a regulation imposing sharia in the area last month.

* But the Taliban refused to give up their guns and pushed into Buner, only 100 km (60 miles) northwest of Islamabad, and another district adjacent to Swat.

* Amid mounting concern at home and abroad, security forces launched an offensive to expel militants from Buner and another
district near Swat on April 26.

* A Taliban spokesman said this week the peace pact would end unless the government halted its offensive in Buner, but it continued and the government then moved against Taliban positions within Swat itself.

* On Thursday the Prime Minister directed the military “to eliminate the militants and terrorists”, and on Friday it launched fresh operations in Swat.

War on Taliban will displace five lakh in Swat

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Associated Press

Mingora, May 05, 2009

 

Black-turbaned militants roamed city streets and seized buildings in a northwestern Pakistan valley on Tuesday as thousands of people fled fighting between the Taliban and troops that the government said could lead to an exodus of half a million people. The Taliban declared the end of their peace deal with the government.

Buses carrying the residents of Mingora, the region’s main town, were crammed inside and out: Refugees clambered onto the roofs after seats and floors filled up. Children and adults alike carried their belongings on their heads and backs — all of them fleeing fighting they fear is about to consume the region.

Khushal Khan, the top administrator in Swat, said Taliban militants were roaming the area and laying mines.

A witness in Mingora told an AP reporter that black-turbaned militants were deployed on most streets and on high buildings, and security forces were barricaded in their bases.

Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan said the militants were in control of “90 per cent” of the valley. He accused the government of caving to US pressure.

Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the information minister for the North West Frontier Province, said up to 500,000 people were expected to flee the valley. Hundreds are already gone, adding to roughly half a million people driven from other regions in the northwest over the last year by fighting between soldiers and insurgents, witnesses said.

Hussain said authorities were releasing emergency funds and preparing six new refugee camps to house them.

Pak gearing up to deal with Swat refugees

Reuters

Posted: Wednesday, May 06, 2009 at 1735 hrs IST

 Mardan:

 Pakistan is bracing for it’s biggest ever displacement of people, as many as 800,000, as a military offensive against Taliban militants in their stronghold in the Swat valley appears imminent.

Expanding Taliban influence in nuclear-armed Pakistan has spread alarm at home and abroad and will be a core issue when US President Barack Obama meets his Afghan and Pakistani counterparts in Washington later on Wednesday.

 Convoys of military vehicles carrying troops and artillery were seen heading towards Swat as authorities in Mardan, the second biggest city in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), search for sites for camps for people uprooted by fighting.

“Initially, we were estimating that 100,000 to 200,000 people would leave their homes but now we are expecting displacement of 600,000 to 800,000,” Khalid Khan Umerzai, commissioner of the Mardan division in NWFP, told Reuters on Wednesday.

“This will be the biggest displacement of Pakistanis since independence,” he said, adding about 1.6 million people live in Swat.

 In February, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, estimated up to 600,000 people could be uprooted because of fighting in Pakistan’s northwest.

 Mardan division is the main staging point for people fleeing the fighting in Malakand where Swat is located, and the government has set up three camps for the uprooted people and is opening three more.

 A February peace pact aimed at ending Taliban violence in Swat is in tatters and thousands of people fled from Mingora, the region’s main town, on Tuesday after a government official said fighting was expected.

Umerzai said 35,000 people had been registered in the three camps but only a handful of them were living there as most had found shelter with relatives in Mardan and elsewhere. Many more were unregistered.

 “We Are Ruined”

 “If the conflict lasts longer, then we expect those living outside camps to come to the camps and that will be a huge problem,” Umerzai said.

 He said the provincial government was short of funds and seeking help from the central government for the growing number of displaced.

 On Marden’s outskirts, a tent village has been set up with the help of the United Nations and international aid agencies on sprawling ground levelled for construction of a housing complex.

 About 350 families are living in tents provided by the UNHCR in the Sheikh Shehzad camp, while a large number of people were lined up outside to get registered.

“I could bring just one blanket and a few clothes for my children with me,” said Omar Bacha, a resident of Mingora, who arrived in the camp on Wednesday, as nearby his seven-year-old son cuddled his shirtless younger brother.

 “We are ruined,” said bearded Behroz Khan. “Taliban are on the ground, helicopters are in the sky, we are caught in between.”

At the back of the camp, poor women, some carrying infants in their laps, were sitting on the ground waiting impatiently for their turn to be registered, which would enable them to get free food and other basic supplies.

 Food was being cooked in about 20 cauldrons nearby while labourers dug ditches to lay sanitation pipes.

“While we cannot give them the comfort of their home, we will try to make it as easy for them as possible,” Fikret Akcura, the top UN official in Pakistan, said in a statement.PESHAWAR: Security forces killed 55 Taliban in various areas of Swat on Saturday, while 14 Taliban were killed in Lower Dir district after gunship helicopters targeted Maidan area.

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