Pakistani security forces kill 10 Taliban in Lower Dir
Pakistani security forces have killed at least 10 Taliban in overnight operations in Lower Dir in the country's restive northwest; the military said Saturday as the operations entered their 36th day.
A large cache of arms has also been recovered.
According to the military, clashes were continuing between the security forces and the military in the Kalpani and Gul Derai areas of Lower Dir.
According to military sources, the security forces have gained complete control of the Kambar Bazaar area of Lower Dir and set up various check posts.
The military has also completed its search operations in Swat's largest city of Mingora, an indication the area had been completely cleared of the Taliban.
On Saturday, there were reports that the militants had abducted and killed renowned religious scholar Qazi Habibur Rehman in Maidan sub-district of Lower Dir.
Rehman belonged to the Tehreek Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) of Taliban-backed radical cleric Sufi Mohammad, who had brokered a controversial peace deal with the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and whose violation by the militants prompted the security forces to go into action April 26.
Under the peace deal, the Taliban were to lay down their arms in return for Sharia laws being imposed in Swat, Buner, Lower Dir and four other districts of the NWFP that are collectively known as the Malakand division.
Instead, the Taliban moved south from their Swat headquarters to occupy Buner, which is just 100 km from Islamabad.
The operations had begun from Lower Dir, Sufi Mohammad's home district, and then spread to Buner and Swat.
The military says closer to 1,200 Taliban have been killed in the operations but there is no independent confirmation of this as the media has been barred from the combat zone.
The security forces have lost some 70 personnel.
The military operations have triggered the biggest and fastest civilian exodus in recent times.
The social welfare department of the NWFP has registered some 1.4 million refugees at its specially established camps but the UN estimates the number could be as high as 2.9 million as many of them could be staying with relatives and friends.
The UN estimates that close to $543 million would be required for the relief and rehabilitation of the refugees.