Pakistani forces retake Lower Dir, Swat peace accord totters (Intro roundup)

April 27th, 2009 - 10:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, April 27 (IANS) Pakistani forces Monday regained control of the Lower Dir district from the Taliban, the military said, as the militants suspended a peace accord meant to restore peace in the area.
“Frontier Corps troops (sic) engaged suspected hideouts of militants in general area of Maidan, Lower Dir today (Monday),” an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement said.

“Twenty militants were killed in the operation which commenced early morning Monday,” the statement said.

Twenty-six militants including an “important militant commander” Qari Shahid who was involved in the killing of two district officials was killed during Sunday’s operation in the Lal Qila area of Lower Dir, ISPR said.

Paramilitary troops and helicopter gunships bombed suspected bases in Lower Dir for the second day running, Geo TV said.

“Search and cordon operations are continuing in the area to capture/flush out militants,” the ISPR statement added.

Indefinite curfew has also been imposed in the Lal Qila, Islampura, Kal Kot and other adjoining areas of the district.

Lower Dir lies about 170 km northwest of Islamabad, to the west of Swat. The two districts form a part of the Malakand division in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), where President Asif Ali Zardari has approved the imposition of Sharia laws as part of a controversial peace deal with the Taliban that would have the militants laying down their arms.

Instead, the Taliban had last week moved south from their Swat headquarters to occupy Buner district, a little over 100 km from Islamabad. They later withdrew after being persuaded to do so by radical cleric Sufi Mohammad, who had brokered the peace deal.

Lower Dir is Sufi Mohammad’s home district.

The Taliban had Sunday suspended the Swat peace accord after the security operation began and Monday demanded the stoppage of military action.

Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan warned that attacks would be carried out in the entire Malakand region if the operations were not stopped.

“The government should stop the operation; otherwise Taliban will resume their activities,” Khan maintained.

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