Pak launches fresh operations against Taliban in NWFP

26 Apr :Pakistani troops on Sunday launched a fresh offensive against the emboldened Taliban in NWFP and killed "scores of militants" in Swat’s neighbouring Dir district, where extremists ambushed a military convoy killing a soldier and injuring five.

"Scores of militants" were killed in a heavy exchange of fire as security forces targetted their hideouts at Islampura and Lal Qila areas in Dir, in an operation launched this morning at the request of the provincial government and the people, the Army said.

Dir and Swat districts are part of Malakand division, where the government has agreed to enforce Shariah or Islamic law.However, Presidential spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said the government’s peace deal with the Taliban is "intact".

The military operations followed some tough talking by the US which voiced serious concerns over the unchecked advances of Taliban towards the federal capital region.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today said America is pushing the Pakistanis "hard" to come around a strategy "to take the country back," days after she asked the Pakistani leadership of basically abdicating to the advancing Taliban.

The offensive also came amid reports that about 10 per cent of the Taliban who came to Buner from Swat are still present in the area, a day after they announced withdrawal from the area.

An "important local commander" was among those killed at Kala Dag. One security personnel was also killed, said a statement from the Inter-Services Public Relations.

"Intense exchange of fire" was continuing at Lal Qila, it said. Media reports said five militants, including commander Maulvi Shahid, were killed in the air strike.

The clashes occurred near Maidan, the hometown of religious hardliner and Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariah Muhammadi chief Sufi Muhammad, who has been negotiating with the Taliban.

Muhammad slammed the government for violating the peace deal in the region and warned that the country might soon turn into another Afghanistan.

"This is a sheer violation of the peace agreement. If the government continues with the same policies this country will soon become Afghanistan," he was quoted as saying by the news agency.

Meanwhile, in Buner local militants shaved off the heads and moustaches of four men as a punishment for listening to music, the Dawn reported, even as the hardline group that mediated the Swat peace accord sought general amnesty for the Taliban in the valley.

The TNSM is holding talks with the government on the option of announcing a general amnesty for the Taliban in the Swat valley in exchange for the militants laying down arms, the newspaper said today.



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