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
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
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.