‘Important’ Taliban commander killed, army chief visits Swat (Lead)

May 21st, 2009 - 10:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, May 21 (IANS) Pakistani security forces have killed an “important” Taliban commander during their operations in the Swat district of the restive North West Frontier Province (NWFP), the military said Thursday, on a day the army chief visited the area to study first hand the conduct of the operations.
Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani “visited Daggar in Buner District to see first hand progress of operations on ground,” an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement said.

“He met the commanders and troops participating in ongoing operations and had informal discussions with them. (He) appreciated the morale of troops. He was also briefed about operations by the field commanders,” the statement said.

This was Kayani’s second visit to the battleground in a week, having travelled there last Thursday.

A separate ISPR statement said: “In the last 24 hours, a number of miscreants-terrorists including important miscreant commander Abu Tariq were killed and seven miscreants were apprehended.”

Five soldiers were killed, while five others, as also an officer, were injured.

Giving details of the operations, the statement said that in Peochar, “security forces have cleared a number of miscreants’ hideouts and are conducting search and destroy operations.

“Fire battles are taking place between miscreants-terrorists and our troops,” the statement added.

Security forces have secured and cleared the area up to Shahid Khapa and further towards the Peochar Valley, the statement said.

Peochar was the headquarters of Swat Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah.

In the Kanju/Takhtaband area, the security forces were “strengthening their positions” around the Takhtaband Bridge, Barikot, Gokdara, Udigram areas, the statement said.

The security forces had also “fully secured” the Banai Baba Ziarat area and cleared it of the Taliban, the statement added.

The military action had begun April 26 after the Taliban reneged on a controversial peace accord with the NWFP government 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-linked radical cleric Sufi Mohammad who had brokered the peace deal with the NWFP government. They later spread to the Buner and Swat districts.

Some 1,100 militants have so far been killed in the operations. No consolidated figures have been released on casualties among the security forces.

The military operation has seen some 2.5 million civilians fleeing their homes in Swat, Buner and Lower Dir.

An international conference here was told Thursday that foreign donors had pledged $244 million for the relief and rehabilitation of the refugees, who have been housed in 22 camps in the NWFP.

On Wednesday, the Pakistani government had granted Rs8 billion for providing immediate relief to the refugees.

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