Pak Army kills 106 Taliban militants in NWFP operations
Last Updated: Tuesday, July 21, 2009, 23:45
Islamabad: In a major operation in restive northwestern region, Pakistani forces killed 106 Taliban militants and lost six soldiers as they faced renewed resistance from the insurgents despite claims of having flushed them out from Swat, Lower Dir and Buner in NWFP.

The Army had to launch a "massive military operation" yesterday in five villages in Maidan area of Lower Dir district as security forces apprehended that most of the Taliban militants who had fled from the Swat valley were sheltering in the area.

In the fierce fighting which went on for more than 48 hours, Army used tanks, heavy artillery and big mortars to smoke out Taliban fighters entrenched in the concrete hideouts at Maidan area in Dir district and lost six soldiers including a JCO in heavy exchanges.

While 100 Taliban militiamen were killed in Maidan area in confrontation with para-military Frontier Corps, while six others were killed in fresh fighting in the Swat valley, which Army earlier had claimed was clear of armed Taliban terrorists, a spokesman of the Frontier Corps was quoted as saying by TV channels.

Renewed clashes in picturesque Swat came even as thousands of displaced persons were returning to their homes after assurances by top Army commanders that the district was now free of Taliban.

The new fighting in the provinces could hamper Army's major operations to break into the Taliban and al Qaeda stronghold in south Waziristan. Thousands of troops backed by tanks and armour are poised to launch Pakistan Army's largest ever operations in more than three decades.

Though Pakistani Army has been proclaiming a big victory against Taliban militants in Swat, Lower Dir and Buner, they have been confronting fresh resistance from the insurgents. Army has claimed that the whole of these districts have been cleared of militants, but, each day they are involved in new encounters with the insurgents.

The major operation in Maidan area was launched by the Army as according to their intelligence top Taliban commanders who had fled from Swat, Dir and Buner were sheltering in these areas.

On the new incidents in Swat military said three soldiers and six militants were killed in fresh fighting. They said exchange of fire had taken place at Damgarh and Imamdheri, a former stronghold of local Taliban.

The gun battle erupted when troops conducting a search spotted five militants clad in burqas trying to escape from the area. All the five militants were apprehended and heavy machine guns recovered from them.

In the same battle five other militants were killed and another insurgent was killed and one was captured during a search operation near Topsin.

Local militant commander Sardar Ali and a 'nazim' or mayor who was a "facilitator" of the Taliban were captured with three vehicles during another operation.

Troops also conducted a search in the area around Peochar, a former base of Fazlullah, and recovered 216 boxes of ammunition from militant hideouts. Security forces also found the bodies of 10 militants inside a cave at Kalagai Banda in Swat.

The brother of a provincial legislator, who was abducted by militants two months ago, was rescued during an operation near Dardial. Troops found weapons and ammunition in the militant hideout.

Fighting has flared in different parts of Malakand division, which includes Swat, amidst the return of thousands of people displaced by the military operations against the Taliban.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani recently said the objectives of the military operations had been achieved but the fresh violence has raised questions about the successes claimed by the army in clearing Swat of the Taliban.

The Army claims it has killed over 1,700 militants in Buner, Dir, Swat and other parts of Malakand. Over 160 security personnel have also died in the fighting. However, none of the top Taliban leaders in Swat have been killed or captured so far.

Bureau Report

First Published: Tuesday, July 21, 2009, 23:45

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