Pakistani forces evict Taliban from two northwestern towns (Lead)

May 19th, 2009 - 10:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, May 19 (IANS) The Pakistani military Tuesday wrested two towns in the restive northwest from the Taliban on a day President Asif Ali Zardari asserted the entire country was united in the struggle against terrorism.
The military said Maidan in Lower Dir and Matta in Swat had been cleared of militants and the civilians who had fled the fighting could now return home.

A curfew, however, continues in Swat, creating shortages of food and other essential supplies, Geo TV reported.

The security forces had gone into action April 26 after the Taliban violated a controversial peace accord with the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) government and moved south from their Swat headquarters to occupy the Buner district that is just 100 km from Islamabad.

The operations had initially begun in Lower Dir, the home district of Taliban-backed radical cleric Sufi Mohammad who had brokered the peace accord, and later spread to Buner and Swat.

Some 1,000 militants have so far been killed in the security forces’ action that has seen nearly 1.5 million civilians fleeing the area. No consolidated figures on military casualties have been released.

Zardari, while speaking to visiting Canadian National Defence Minister Peter Mackay said the fight against the Taliban now had political ownership and the entire nation was united in the struggle against the militants, APP news agency reported.

The president reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to fight militancy and said the government would establish and maintain the writ of the state at all cost.

Zardari and Mackay also discussed the regional security scenario, Pakistan’s efforts to fight militancy and extremism and the relief effort underway in NWFP.

He also pointed to the need for international assistance in rehabilitating the displaced civilians.

On his part, Mackay said: “We desire to do even more in this fight against militancy.”

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