Taliban using civilians as human shields: Pakistani Army (Roundup)May 4th, 2009 - 10:09 pm ICT by IANS
Islamabad, May 4 (IANS) The Taliban in Pakistan’s restive northwest are using civilians as human shields to forestall the security forces action against them, the military said Monday as six soldiers and 10 militants were killed in the fighting.
The military operation in the Buner and Lower Dir districts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) “is continuing while at least 2,000 innocent civilians are being used by the militants as human shields in Buner’s Pir Baba area”, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement.
The military, Dawn News channel said, planned to clear the Pir Baba area of Taliban militants after they had also taken over a police station there.
ISPR chief Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas told PTV the Daggar area was under the full control of the security forces and the Daggar-Mardan Road had been opened to traffic.
After consolidating their positions in the areas surrounding Daggar, the security forces would extend their operations to other areas of Buner, Abbas said.
According to the ISPR statement, seven militants, including militant commander Afsar Hameed were killed in Buner’s Kalpani area. A soldier also died during the fighting while three others were injured in Buner.
“The operation in Buner is continuing smoothly as consolidation of positions continues in district headquarters of Daggar and surrounding areas,” the statement said.
On the situation in Swat, ISPR said Taliban militants were grossly violating the peace accord and were patrolling the roads of Mingora, threatening the civilian administration and innocent people.
On Sunday, the militants had beheaded two soldiers in their captivity in Khwazakhela, ISPR said, adding that security forces were “still exercising restraint” to honour the peace deal in Swat.
Despite this, militants attacked a security forces’ convoy in Swat’s Bari Kot area, with the ambush leading to an exchange of fire in which an army officer was killed and two soldiers wounded, ISPR said.
In Lower Dir, the militants burnt the house of a district superintendent of police in Maidan’s Kumber area and looted a Union Council nazim’s residence.
Militants also raided a security forces check post at Shangla Top, killing one soldier, ISPR said.
The security forces went into action against the Taliban after they violated the Feb 16 Swat peace accord and moved south to occupy Buner, that lies just 100 km from Islamabad. The operations began April 26 in Lower Dir and spread to Buner two days later.
Over 150 militants have so far been killed in the military action.
DPA adds: Meanwhile, as the military continues its push against the Taliban in Buner, there were reports of dozens of civilian casualties, damage to property and mass exodus from the region, locals in the area have said.
“There is destruction everywhere. We don’t know exactly how many have died but the losses are really huge,” Ali Akbar Sher, a former member of parliament from Buner, said Sunday.
“The military do not dare to go to the mountains where the militants are entrenched. Instead the jet fighters and army helicopters are targeting the civilian areas,” he added.
According to Sher, some 50,000 people had fled the district of around 600,000 population and more were leaving through difficult mountain tracks to the neighbouring Swabi and Mardan districts, where the Islamist relief workers had set up dozens of refugee camps.
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