11 Taliban killed in Swat; Army chief orders precision strikes | world | Hindustan Times
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11 Taliban killed in Swat; Army chief orders precision strikes

world Updated: May 13, 2009 19:27 IST

Backed by fighter jets and attack helicopters, Pakistani forces killed at least 11 militants in Swat valley taking the number of Taliban killed in heavy fighting in the northwest to over 760, even as the army chief today ordered precision strikes to "minimise" civilian deaths.

An "important" Taliban cadre named Naseeb Rehman was among 11 militants killed across the northwestern Swat valley in recent fighting. "Scores" of militants were injured, the military said in a statement, adding four soldiers also died and 12 others injured.

The military had on Tuesday said that over 750 militants had been killed in fighting in Buner, Dir and Swat districts though US officials have reportedly described the claim as "exaggerated."

The military said troops had last night "established a firm hold" in Peochar, a militant stronghold in Swat where helicopter-borne commandos were deployed yesterday. Local Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah and his aides are believed to be hiding in Peochar.

In a message, Gen Kayani instructed troops engaged in the drive against the Taliban to "ensure minimum collateral damage even at the expense of taking risks by resorting to precision strikes."

Kayani said the overall success of the offensive would be a "sum total of three efforts, i.e. Conduct of military operations, minimising collateral damage and correctly managing IDPs (internally displaced persons)."

The management of IDPs is "as important as the military operation in Swat" and the army has decided to provide complete support to the government and international agencies in managing and rehabilitating displaced persons, Kayani said.

A corps headquarters has been asked to form a Special Support Group for the IDPs to coordinate all relief efforts, he added.

President Asif Ali Zardari, who met UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York yesterday, appealed to international community to provide aid for the displaced persons.

"We're appealing to the world, myself and the (UN) Secretary General... To draw attention on the human catastrophe that is taking place," he said.

Estimates prepared by authorities and international aid agencies have said about a million people have been displaced by the fighting that erupted last month after the Taliban violated a peace deal in Swat and extended their influence to Buner and Dir districts.

The military said that troops -- backed by fighter jets and attack helicopters -- were targeting militant bases in Peochar and consolidating their own positions at Banai Baba and Bariam Bridge in Swat. Security forces had cleared the area from Khwazakhela to Bariam Bridge.