Pakistan army kills 30 militants (Lead)

October 19th, 2008 - 6:34 pm ICT by IANS  

TalibanIslamabad, Oct 19 (DPA) Security forces killed at least 30 militants in Pakistan’s restive Swat district Sunday as a top US diplomat discussed counter-terrorism initiatives with the country’s leadership, officials and media reports said.US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher, who arrived in Islamabad on an unannounced visit Saturday, held talks with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari Sunday over the militant violence in the north-west and security along the Afghan border.

The US diplomat’s visit was being kept low-key, with the US embassy just saying that the trip was not an unscheduled one and it had been planned in advance.

Boucher’s meetings come at a time when the relations between the United States and Pakistan are at a low ebb because of the recent upsurge in American air strikes against militants holed up in the country’s tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

Zardari reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to fighting Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters inside its territory, but said Afghan militants were infiltrating into the tribal areas to support the Islamist insurgents, the DawnNews channel reported quoting unnamed officials.

Dawn News said Boucher pledged US assistance to train and equip the Frontier Corps paramilitary forces to fight militants in the restive north-western region. Boucher also gave similar assurances in his overnight meeting with Pakistan top civilian security official, Rehman Malik.

Pakistani security forces are currently engaged in offensives against pro-Taliban rebels in the treacherous tribal belt and militancy-plagued areas in the adjoining North-West Frontier Province (NWFP).

On Sunday, jet fighters of the Pakistan Air Force strafed a stronghold of Islamist militants in NWFP’s Swat district, killing at least 30 insurgents including key commanders.

Successive bombing sorties were carried out in Swat’s Matta sub-district to take out the headquarters and training facilities of the supporters of region’s radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah, who last year launched an armed struggle to enforce strict Taliban-style laws.

“Around 30 militants were killed and several were injured when security forces engaged their positions in Barthana and Parao areas,” military spokesman Major Murad Khan said.

One of Fazlullah’s senior aides, Commander Alamgir, was among those killed in the attack that also destroyed the militants’ ammunition dumps.

Hours after the operation, militants struck a military convoy with a roadside bomb in Swat’s Kabal sub-district, killing one soldier. Troop also shot dead three insurgents in the ensuing skirmish.

Swat, located 250 km north-west of capital Islamabad, was a popular tourist destination until early 2007 when it became a virtual battlefield between government troops and the rebels.

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