More than 1,000 militants killed in operation: Malik
Pakistani soldiers stand guard on road at Gulabad, in the troubled Malakand agency, on May 16, 2009. – AFP
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government urged on Sunday people stranded in Swat to flee whenever they get a chance, as security forces battled Taliban militants in one of their strongholds in the valley. More than 1,000 militants had been killed in the offensive in Swat, Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik told reporters. There was no independent confirmation of the toll. The military has reported a similar toll for the militants and has said 48 soldiers have been killed. The offensive in the one-time tourist valley, 130 km northwest of Islamabad, has also forced at least 1.17 million people from their homes, the UN refugee agency said. It has urged the world to respond ‘massively’ to the humanitarian crisis. The Taliban hold Mingora, Swat’s main town, and many civilians are believed to be still there. ‘I appeal to the people of Mingora and other parts which are under aggression, as soon as they get an opportunity, the curfew is relaxed, they should come out,’ Malik said. Malik also said the security forces were hunting for the leaders of the Taliban in Swat. ‘Those leaders, those commanders, who are controlling the Taliban, obviously we’re going to hit them. We’re not going to spare them,’ he said. ‘You’ll hear good news soon.’ About 15,000 members of the security forces are fighting between 4,000 and 5,000 militants in Swat, the military says. The military says it has inflicted no civilian casualties as soldiers have been attacking militants in the mountains, not in built-up areas where there are civilians. But it has said it will go after the Taliban in Mingora and other towns. Military spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas said security forces had moved into the town of Matta, where the Taliban leader in the valley, Fazlullah, was believed to be hiding. Abbas said he had no details of the fighting in Matta. Swat residents said some civilians were still in the town. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said on Saturday the flood of people who have poured out of Swat was one of the most dramatic displacement crises in the world in recent times. The United Nations has registered 1.17 million people, though many are believed not to have bothered to register. They are joining about 565,000 displaced by earlier fighting in the northwest. Malik, while urging people to flee from Swat’s main town, said displaced people could return to some other areas in the valley that troops had cleared. The military offensive against Taliban fighters in the northwest Pakistan has killed more than 1,000 militants, a top official said on Sunday after visiting a relief camp hosting thousands of people displaced by the battle. Malik told a news conference in Mardan that a few pockets of resistance remain in Swat, urging internally displaced people to return home in areas up to Khawaza-khela. He said the security forces have also brought Buner and Lower Dir district under control and will try to complete the operation as soon as possible. He said that talks are possible if the Taliban lay down arms but their commanders will not be spared. The military has warned that some militants are trying to flee as well, some after shaving off their beards to blend in with the refugees.
47 Taliban killed: Foreigners fighting alongside Taliban in Malakand: ISPR
By Irfan Ghauri || www.dailytimes.com.pk
ISLAMABAD: Claiming significant achievements in the ongoing military operation against Taliban in Malakand division, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) on Saturday confirmed the presence of hardcore foreign militants fighting alongside the Taliban against security forces.
ISPR spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas told reporters during the daily press briefing that 47 terrorists had been killed in various areas during the last 24 hours. Maj Gen Abbas said some ‘key’ foreign intelligence agencies were also involved in the insurgency.
He said there were around 4,000 fighters in Swat, at least 10 percent of whom were not locals.
Blast targets cyber cafe in NWFP capital, 11 killed
Posted: Saturday , May 16, 2009 at 1830 hrs IST || www.indianexpress.com
A powerful bomb targeting a cyber cafe in a busy commercial area of Peshawar in NWFP went off on Saturday, killing at least 11 people, including four children and two women, and injuring 32 others.
A high intensity explosive device hidden in a car parked in the old quarters of the northwestern city exploded when the area was crowded with people. A school bus carrying 15 children was among a dozen vehicles hit by the blast.
Police officials said a cyber cafe was the target of the blast as its owner had received a letter from pro-Taliban militants warning him to close down the establishment. The car, which was packed with about 40 to 50 kg of explosives, was parked outside the cyber cafe at the time of the blast.
Local residents said the owner of the cyber cafe had not taken the letter seriously.
No group claimed responsibility for the blast, which caused panic in the city. The blast also triggered a fire that destroyed many cars and shops.
Pro-Taliban militants have threatened to carry out suicide attacks in retaliation of the ongoing army operations in Swat and Buner and the drone attacks in the tribal areas.
Three persons were arrested immediately after the blast and taken by police to an undisclosed location for questioning.