As many as 143 militants have been killed in the past 24 hours in fighting in the Islamist bastion of Swat valley. Seven soldiers have also died in the operation.
“Approximately 143 militants have been killed in Swat valley,” military spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas said.
Security forces, backed by fighter jets and artillery, pounded suspected militant strongholds in Swat and other districts of Malakand division, in which a key commander was killed.
“On the directive of the government, the army is now engaged in a full-scale operation to eliminate the militants,” Abbas said. He also told Dawn News that members of Jaish-e-Mohammed and militants from South Waziristan region were fighting alongside some 5,000 Taliban fighters in Swat valley.
The military estimates that there are about 4,000 to 5,000 militants in Swat and they have been joined by fighters from South Waziristan and “splinter groups of the Jaish-e-Mohammed” from Punjab, Abbas said a day after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called in the armed forces to eliminate terrorists.
Noting that the people had seen the “real face” of the Taliban in Swat, he said: “The people have now realised that their agenda goes much beyond the Nizam-e-Adl (Regulation) or shariah courts.”
The United Nations, meanwhile, warned that the number of internally displaced people could rise to about one million if the situation worsens.