Pakistani military vows to crush Taliban (Lead)

May 8th, 2009 - 9:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, May 8 (IANS) Admitting to the presence of 4,000 Taliban militants in Swat in Pakistan’s restive northwest, the military Friday said it had launched an all-out offensive to flush them out.
Briefing reporters here, chief military spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said the army had been tasked with eliminating the Taliban from Swat and would take the operation to its logical conclusion.

He said intelligence estimates place the number of militants in the once picturesque valley at 4,000.

Abbas’s remarks came a day after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said the armed forces have been ordered to “eliminate terrorists” in Swat.

In a televised address to the nation Thursday evening, Gilani said that although the government had opted for talks to resolve the Swat issue, “terrorist elements continued to challenge the writ of the government.

“On the directive of the government of Pakistan, the army is now engaged in a full scale operation to eliminate all anti-state elements from Swat,” a statement from Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said.

“They (the militants) are on the run and trying to block the exodus of innocent civilians by preventing their departure through coercion, IEDs, road blocks with trees and even hostages.

“In Swat, during the last 24 hours (till Friday afternoon), over 140 militants have been killed”, while seven security personnel were killed and 12 injured.

In the adjacent Lower Dir district, thousands of people have fled their homes as troops intensified their battle against the Taliban, killing at least 10 militants overnight, officials said Friday.

The security forces pounded the Taliban positions in Timargarah area, killing at least 10 militants, Geo TV reported citing officials.

Thousands of local residents fled the area to safer places, while the banks in the area remained closed for an indefinite period, the report said.

In one incident, militants blew up a police station that was vacated Thursday amid tensions in Adeen Zai tehsil.

Meanwhile, warplanes and gunship helicopters continued pounding militants’ hideouts in the neighbouring Kabal tehsil of the Swat Valley.

Sources, however, said there was no casualty in the operation so far.

An indefinite curfew has been imposed in the district.

The power supply in the area remained suspended Friday after militants attacked a power station four days ago. The Lower Dir district and the adjoining areas are also facing water shortages, the report said.

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