Swat operations in final phase: Pakistani military

June 22nd, 2009 - 9:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, June 22 (IANS) Pakistani security forces are in the “final phase” of their anti-Taliban operations in northwestern Swat and the focus is now shifting to the return of the millions of civilians who have fled the fighting, the military said Monday as the offensive entered its 57th day.
Close to 2,000 Taliban have so far been killed in the operations in the Swat, Buner and Lower Dir districts of the North West Frontier Agency (NWFP) and the South Waziristan agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Afghanistan border, an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said.

“Security forces are in the final phase of eliminating terrorists’ hideouts and camps in Swat,” the statement said. “In the north Bhia Valley, the last stronghold of terrorists has been fully secured and in the west, the area of Shamozai is being cleared.”

Search operations were continuing in the secured areas to ensure they are safe for the return of the internally displaced persons (IDPs).

“So far, 1592 terrorists have been killed. Photographs of a few are displayed for your information,” the statement said but there were no photographs provided on the ISPR website.

During the search and cordon operations, the security forces neutralised a number of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and destroyed a number of small and big tunnels, while 22 terrorists were killed and five were apprehended in Malakand in the 24 hours to Monday evening, the ISPR statement said.

Fourteen terrorists were killed by security forces during their link-up operations at Shamozai Bridge, while eight large-sized IEDs planted by terrorists were neutralized, the statement said.

Speaking about the restoration of services in the secured areas, the statement said all roads in Mingora, Swat’s largest city, and the Mingora bypass “have been repaired for two-way traffic by army engineers”.

Gas supply to Mingora and surrounding areas has also been restored. Five hundred telephone lines in Mingora were “fully functional” while work was underway on repairing the optical fibre cable and the telephone exchange at Saidu Sharif.

Electricity has been restored in Buner district.

The operations began April 26 after the Taliban reneged on a controversial peace deal with the NWFP government and instead moved south from their Swat headquarters and occupied 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 the father-in-law of Swat Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah. They later spread to Buner and Swat - and to South Waziristan earlier this month.

South Waziristan is the headquarters of Baitullah Mehsud, who heads the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the umbrella group of various Taliban groups operating in the country.

Mehsud is also accused of having a hand in the Dec 27, 2007, gun and bomb attack that killed former prime minister Benazir Bhutto as she left a political rally in the garrison town of Rawalpindi adjacent to Islamabad.

The military operations have displaced 3.8 million civilians from the three districts of NWFP, a press release issued by the provincial government says.

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