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13 killed as Pak battles militants

At least 13 civilians were killed in fresh clashes between government forces and Taliban fighters in Pakistan’s troubled Swat Valley, officials said.

world Updated: Jul 31, 2008 23:22 IST
Kamal Siddiqi

Pakistan’s strategic border town of Peshawar has been placed on red alert as fighting between government forces and local Taliban militia intensified on Thursday and the death toll rose after overnight mortar attacks. Police and para-military forces were seen in full force in the city.

At least 13 civilians, including seven from one family, were killed on Thursday in fresh clashes between government forces and Taliban fighters in Pakistan’s troubled Swat Valley, officials said.

Earlier in the day, police confirmed that 13 people were killed when mortar shells fell on two houses in Tehsil Kabal in the Swat Valley on Thursday. So far, 33 people have died in the recent spate of violence in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

Police officials said that a family of seven were killed when a mortar shell hit their house in Dulai area in Kabal Tehsil. Also, six of a family was killed in Derai Sakai area of Kabal Tehsil when a mortar fell at their house. Meanwhile, unidentified miscreants torched a girls school in Khawazakhela and two schools in Kashora areas. On the same day, a couple was also injured when a mortar shell landed at their house in Nusrat Kalay area.

Fighting between local Taliban militia and government forces has intensified in the past week. Trouble flared in the valley on Tuesday when militants abducted 25 members of the government’s security forces. Since then there have been skirmishes between troops and militants in different parts of Swat.

The army reported sporadic overnight gunfire in the valley and said it was quiet on Thursday morning. A valley-wide curfew was relaxed for two hours before noon to allow residents to buy provisions. It may be recalled that the provincial government had struck a peace deal with militants in Swat in May, raising hopes that it could curb the growing influence of militant groups through negotiations. But US and NATO officials complain that cease-fires have allowed Taliban and al-Qaeda militants based there to focus on attacks in neighbouring Afghanistan.