Buner 90 percent cleared of Taliban: Pakistani military (Lead)

May 26th, 2009 - 7:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, May 26 (IANS) Pakistani forces have regained control over 90 percent of Buner district and increased their stranglehold over Mingora, the largest town in Swat, the military said Tuesday as the operations against the Taliban in the country’s restive northwest entered their second month.
“Ninety percent area of Buner has been cleared,” an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement said.

“Security forces have made considerable progress in Mingora town. House-to-house search is in progress in most of the areas,” the statement added.

Cordon and search operations were also continuing in Peochar, the stronghold of Swat Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah, ISPR said.

In Lower Dir, 100-120 “miscreants-terrorists” attacked Kalpani Post from three directions Monday night.

“Kalpani Post seals the route to Maidan valley from the north and miscreants-terrorists are desperate to remove this post. The attack was repulsed. Miscreants suffered heavy casualties,” the statement said.

In the 24 hours to Tuesday afternoon, it said, 29 “miscreants-terrorists” were killed, while 14 were apprehended in various parts of Swat during exchanges of fire with the security.

Six soldiers were killed and 11 were injured during the period.

The military says over 1,100 militants have been killed since the operations began April 26 but there is no independent confirmation of this since the media has been barred from the battle zone.

The security forces have lost some 60 personnel.

When the security forces’ operations began, the military estimated there were some 5,000 Taliban fighters in the Swat, Buner and Lower Dir districts. It now says that about half of these have fled the region.

The military went into action after the Taliban violated a controversial peace accord with the NWFP and moved south from their Swat headquarters to occupy Buner, which is just 100 km from Islamabad.

The operations had begun in Lower Dir, the home district of Taliban-backed radical cleric Sufi Mohammad, who had brokered the peace deal and who is Maulana Fazlullah’s father-in-law. They later spread to Buner and Swat.

The military operations have triggered the largest and swiftest refugee exodus anywhere in the world in recent times, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says.

The social welfare department of the NWFP government says it has registered 1.45 million refugees at its 22 relief camps but the Un estimates that the actual number could be as high as 2.9 million as many of the displaced persons could be staying with friends and relatives.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, who met some of displaced people during a three-day visit to Pakistan earlier this month, has called for urgent and massive international help from governments and other donors for those left homeless by fighting.

The UN office in Islamabad said Friday $543 million would be required for the rehabilitation of the displaced people. A day earlier, Pakistan had won pledges of $244 million at a donors conference in Islamabad.

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