Pakistani troops killed six suspected Taliban fighters near the Swat Valley's main city, the army said on Wednesday, underscoring the region's fragile security even as refugees displaced by fighting return home.
Few details were immediately available on the incident in Kabal town, but the military was planning to take local journalists to the scene to show them the bodies. Kabal lies across the river from Mingora, the Swat Valley's main city, and it was considered a likely hide-out of the Swat Taliban's leadership.
More than 2 million residents of Swat and surrounding districts fled their homes while the army fought Taliban militants in the area for more than two months. A government repatriation program began on Monday, and thousands of refugees have been heading back. The program is supposed to focus first on the 200,000 or so refugees staying in relief camps and only certain zones in the valley are supposed to be open, but complications have arisen.
Some in the camps say they won't go home until they are given promised financial assistance of around $300 per family. Others who are not in the camps have begun to head back despite government pleas of patience, causing traffic jams at roadblocks. And some have gone to areas not yet technically open, including Minogra, where hundreds showed up Tuesday.
According to the government, 23,951 families are registered at relief camps in the northwest. Since Monday, at least 1,572 families from both relief camps and those staying elsewhere had returned to the valley.
It was difficult to ascertain whether any families managed to get through using smaller, unmonitored routes. Elsewhere in the northwest on Wednesday, a roadside bomb exploded at a police checkpoint, killing a paramilitary soldier and a police officer and wounding six policemen, police official Imtiaz Khan said. No one claimed responsibility for the attack in the Bannu area, but Taliban fighters have frequently targeted security forces in the past.