Taliban militants kill three in Pakistan (Lead)

May 7th, 2009 - 1:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, May 7 (DPA) Islamist militants attacked a checkpoint in Pakistan’s troubled north-west, triggering a gunfight that left at least three security men dead, officials and media reports said Thursday.
Scores of rebels raided the main centre of the tribal police in the Chakdara area of the Lower Dir district late Wednesday and took more than a dozen personnel hostage, a local police official said on condition of anonymity.

Security forces launched a rescue effort, triggering a gunbattle, Geo News television channel reported.

It was not clear whether the attackers suffered any casualties.

The militants also blew up the checkpoint before retreating with the hostages.

Fighting has flared up in the Malakand division of the North West Frontier Province in recent days after the virtual collapse of a three-month-old peace deal between the Taliban fighters and the regional government.

The fresh clashes came as US President Barack Obama discussed the surge in the Taliban insurgency with his Afghan and Pakistani counterparts in Washington and stressed a coordinated effort was needed.

In another clash in the Maidan area of Lower Dir, a son of the pro-Taliban cleric Sufi Mohammad, who brokered the February peace accord that led to the introduction of Islamic sharia law in Malakand in mid-April, was killed, Geo News said.

Under the agreement, Taliban militants said they would disarm after the imposition of sharia law, but they dishonoured their promises and expanded their territory to nearby districts.

Their forays prompted the government to launch air and ground operations against the Taliban, who have their bastion in the Swat Valley, a former tourist destination.

The Pakistani military claimed troops have killed more than 250 militants since April 26 when the anti-Taliban offensives began from Lower Dir.

Assaults in Buner, a strategic district of Malakand located 100 km north-west of Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, continued Thursday with security forces targeting militant hideouts with artillery and helicopter gunship fire.

The deadly battles have triggered a mass civilian exodus from the conflict-ridden areas while the regional government is planning to provide shelter to around 500,000 people it expected to receive at makeshift camps set up in coordination with the United Nations.

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