Swat Valley cleared of militants: Pak Army commanderDecember 8th, 2007 - 9:01 pm ICT by admin
Peshawar/Mingora, Dec 8 (ANI): The Pakistan Army has claimed that it has cleared almost all of the embattled Swat Valley of militants, killing 290 rebels and arresting another 143 in recent weeks.
However the pro-Taliban cleric behind the bloody unrest, Maulana Fazlullah, was still on the run along with hundreds of his loyal fighters, the army’s chief operations commander said.
It was the first briefing for foreign media in the valley since President Pervez Musharraf ordered troops on November 24 to wipe out militants who had seized control of the region calling for enforcement of Islamic Sharia laws.
Major General Nasser Janjua said some 20,000 troops backed by helicopter gunships and artillery had driven militants out of their strongholds in the ongoing military operation.
“Fazlullah is still on the run with hardcore militants estimated to be between 200 to 400, including some foreigners,” Janjua told reporters at the army’s makeshift headquarters in Mingora, the main town in the Swat Valley.
“The militants have retreated to two places in the mountains in the northwest of the valley and we will chase them there,” The News quoted Janjua, as saying.
He said five soldiers and six civilians had been killed in the operation and around 20 civilians were also wounded, and added that it would take up to four months to stabilise the region.
Janjua said it would take at least 12 months to reopen the region to tourists, also renowned for its ancient Buddhist relics.
He said Fazlullah had been involved with the “enemy”, and when pressed he named Osama bin Laden’s terror network al-Qaeda as having played a role in unrest in the region.
“The Taliban and Al-Qaeda are looking for safe havens and trying to recruit the youth here,” he said.
He said up to an estimated 5,000 supporters and fighters had been with Fazlullah at the start of the operation, but a majority of them were youths recruited by the cleric on payment of rupees 200 (three dollars) per day.
Fazlullah — known as “Mullah Radio” for broadcasting fiery speeches over his private FM radio station — has called for a holy war against the government. (ANI)
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