Pakistani forces recapture key town from Taliban (Intro Roundup)

April 30th, 2009 - 10:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, April 30 (IANS) Pakistani security forces have recaptured a key town from the Taliban in the country’s restive northwest and the operations against them would last another week, the military said Thursday, even as Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called for national unity in the struggle against terrorism.
“The troops have taken full control of Daggar”, the administrative capital of Buner district that lies just 100 km from Islamabad, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, the director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) told reporters here.

The security forces continue to face resistance from Taliban fighters who have taken up positions in the mountains in the district, he said, adding: “The security forces are exercising restraint as the militants are using civilians as human shields.”

The operation was going slowly because security forces were attempting to prevent collateral damage and it would take another week to completely rid Buner of the Taliban, Abbas added.

In the neighbouring district of Lower Dir, the security forces destroyed four vehicles of the militants and normalcy was slowly returning to the area. Some 70-75 Taliban militants have been killed while 10 security personnel have lost their lives.

The security forces had gone into action in Buner Tuesday after the Taliban reneged on a controversial peace deal with the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) government and occupied the district. The operation in Lower Dir, the home district of radical cleric Sufi Mohammad who had brokered the peace deal, had begun Sunday.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Thursday urged the nation to unite in the war against terror, saying the operations in Buner and Lower Dir were meant to restore the writ of the government.

“All political forces should unite against the scourge of terrorism. At this crucial time, the entire nation should forget political differences and rise to the occasion by unitedly meeting the challenges,” Associated Press of Pakistan quoted Gilani as saying during a meeting with Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

“This is the only way that designs of the militants and extremists can be defeated,” he added.

Gilani also asked Malik to take steps for rehabilitating the internally displaced persons (IDPs) who had been affected by the fighting.

Also on Thursday, Sufi Mohammad, who had gone underground after the Lower Dir operation began, appeared in public and called for an end to the fighting

“Operations in Dir and Buner are promoting Talibanisation,” Geo TV quoted him as saying, even as he offered to help restore peace in the area.

Meanwhile, the security forces Thursday pounded militants’ positions in different areas of Maidan tehsil in Lower Dir. Several hideouts of the militants were destroyed and heavy casualties are feared, Geo TV reported.

Curfew was relaxed from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Maidan and markets and business centres partially opened in Islam Darra, Haya Sarai and Kalkot areas. Educational institutions, however, remained shut.

Under the Feb 16 peace deal between Sufi Mohammad and the NWFP government, Sharia laws would be imposed in Swat, Lower Dir, Buner and four other districts of the province in return for the Taliban laying down their arms.

The pact came into force April 16 but the Taliban reneged on it almost immediately as they moved south from their Swat headquarters and occupied Buner, sending alarm bells ringing in Islamabad.

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