Pakistani villagers rise up against Taliban, kill 11 (Roundup)

June 7th, 2009 - 10:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, June 7 (DPA) Hundreds of people have risen up against Taliban fighters in a district in Pakistan’s northwestern region, killing at least 11 as troops continued operations against the militants elsewhere in the region, officials and media reports said Sunday.
The armed locals turned on Taliban fighters in Hayagai, a remote village in Upper Dir district, after a suicide bombing at a mosque in the area Friday killed at least 49 people, minutes before the start of early afternoon prayers.

The militias from Hayagai had stormed six nearby Taliban-held villages to avenge the mosque attack, the Urdu-language Geo television news channel reported.

Thirteen militants, including some “foreigners”, were killed in the raids, according to the report that cited unnamed sources.

The term “foreigners” is used locally for Arab and Central Asian militants linked to the Al Qaeda terrorist organisation.

Another private television channel, Aaj, put the death toll at 11. It also said the militia raid was assisted by security forces.

The exact casualty count could not be confirmed independently.

The News daily said Sunday that militiamen shouted the slogan “Pakistan has awakened” while raiding the Taliban positions.

Half a dozen houses used by the militants were also torched.

A tribal elder in Hayagai told The News that “we are not ready to allow them (Taliban) to unleash terror here”.

The clashes marked the re-emergence of armed opposition to militants entrenched in the northwestern region near Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s concerted campaign to flush out militants from the Swat Valley, which borders Upper Dir, has encouraged anti-insurgency forces to resist Taliban infiltration.

The army said Sunday that during the last 24 hours, security forces killed four “terrorists” in different areas of Malakand division, which includes Swat and Upper Dir besides five other districts.

Three soldiers also died in gunfights with the Taliban fighters, a military statement said.

With the fresh casualties, more than 1,300 Taliban fighters and 108 soldiers have been killed in the offensive launched in late April, according to the army.

There is no independent confirmation of the toll as the conflict zones are largely closed to reporters.

The US and other Western countries have welcomed the operation, which also has vast support of Pakistan’s political parties and the public.

But commentators fear that the local support could evaporate if the people displaced by the conflict were not properly taken care of or if the collateral damage ran high.

Fierce fighting has uprooted more than 2.5 million citizens in just over a month.

The Taliban have already announced that they will carry out revenge attacks in main cities.

The latest strike came in the capital city, Islamabad, Saturday when a suicide bomber scaled a wall around the police emergency response centre and blew himself up after guards opened fire. Two policemen were killed and four others were wounded.

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