Scores of Pakistani Taliban fighters have taken over an emerald mine in the restive northwestern Swat valley and begun mining operations there after building trenches and bunkers.
Over 70 armed militants stormed the emerald mine at Gojaro Killay Amnavi area in Shangla district yesterday and occupied it. The militants built bunkers around the mine and announced that workers would be given 50 per cent of all income from mining operations, media reports said.
The mine, the second largest in Shangla district, had been leased by the Pakistan government to the US firm Luxury International for Rs 40 million a year.
The American firm recently pulled out of the area due to an upsurge in violence in Swat.
The local Taliban had recently taken over another emerald mine at Fiza Ghat, a resort on the outskirts of Mingora, the main city in Swat and the militants have employed hundreds of labourers to work round the clock to excavate emeralds.
Residents of Shangla confirmed the forcible occupation. They said the Taliban had employed some 1,000 people to work the mine yesterday.
A local official said the government had recently decided to re-auction the mine as Luxury International had been unable to meet the terms of its contract.