Pak Army close in on Swat capital; 27 Taliban killed
Pakistani security forces entered two strategic towns in Swat in a pincer movement while closing in on Taliban-infested city of Mingora, even as the Govt today vowed to push ahead with the offensive until peace is restored in the unruly northwest. Backed by helicopter gunships and fighter jets, the Pakistani Army killed 27 militants.world Updated: May 18, 2009 20:31 IST
Pakistani security forces entered two strategic towns in Swat in a pincer movement while closing in on Taliban-infested city of Mingora, even as the government on Monday vowed to push ahead with the offensive until peace is restored in the unruly northwest.
Backed by helicopter gunships and fighter jets, the Pakistani Army killed 27 militants, including three Taliban commanders, across Swat as authorities asked residents of Mingora to vacate the city in anticipation of heavy fighting.
The troops entered Matta and Kanju, two key towns considered Taliban strongholds, on their way to Mingora, TV channels reported.
Hundreds of Taliban fighters are holed up in Mingora where militants have occupied key buildings and mined roads to prevent the entry of troops.
Experts have said the battle for Mingora might be long drawn and bloody and efforts are being made to ensure that civilians leave the city before the army moves in. Officials said troops were approaching Mingora from the north and south to prevent militants from escaping from the area.
Army officials said at least 15 militants were killed in Matta sub-district. The security forces had gained control of 50 per cent of the territory in Matta and established check posts at key intersections, they said.
Two security personnel were killed and three injured during the fighting in Matta.
Troops also consolidated their positions at Khwazakhela and Kanju in Swat valley after fierce gun battles with the Taliban.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said over 1,000 militants have been killed so far in operations against the Taliban at Buner, Dir and Swat in the Malakand division.
Meanwhile, Pakistani Taliban pledged to resist the Army's advance in Swat valley till the "last breath".
"We will fight until the last breath for the enforcement of Islamic law," Khan was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani earlier said that troops would remain in Swat and nearby areas till complete peace is restored and people displaced by the fighting returned to their homes.
"Troops will remain in these areas till people who fled their homes do not return and peace is restored," Gilani said at an all party meeting convened to discuss the military operations.
His comments came as the government has sought international assistance to deal with the massive exodus of civilians from the conflict-hit areas of NWFP.
The fighting has displaced over 1.3 million people who fled their homes across Buner, Dir and Swat districts. Many of the displaced people have taken shelter in relief camps set up by authorities and NGOs in Mardan and nearby areas and relief workers have said there is an urgent need to improve conditions and facilities at these camps.