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History, Geography, & Military Discuss Pakistan urges civilians to flee from Swat at the Political Forums; Pakistan urges civilians to flee from Swat By Kamran Haider Kamran Haider 2 hrs 49 mins ago ISLAMABAD (Reuters) ...

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Old 05-17-2009, 11:39 AM
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Default Pakistan urges civilians to flee from Swat

Pakistan urges civilians to flee from Swat

By Kamran Haider Kamran Haider 2 hrs 49 mins ago
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) The Pakistani government on Sunday urged people stranded by a military offensive against Taliban militants in the Swat valley to try to get out.

Many civilians are believed to still be inside Mingora, the main town in Swat, after the army launched an offensive more than a week ago to stop the spread of Taliban influence.

"I appeal to the people of Mingora and other parts which are under aggression, as soon as they get an opportunity, the curfew is relaxed, they should come out," Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik told reporters.

The army said intense exchanges of fire were taking place on the outskirts of Mingora. Malik also said security forces were hunting for the leaders of the Taliban in Swat.

"Those leaders, those commanders, who are controlling the Taliban, obviously we're going to hit them. We're not going to spare them," he said. "You'll hear good news soon."

Malik said more than 1,000 militants had been killed in the offensive, which followed the collapse of a peace deal which Washington had criticized.

There was no independent confirmation on the numbers of militants killed. The military has reported a similar toll for the militants and has said 49 soldiers have been killed.

The offensive in the one-time tourist valley, 130 km (80 miles) northwest of Islamabad, has also forced at least 1.17 million people from their homes, the U.N. refugee agency said.

CRISIS

President Asif Ali Zardari said Swat was just the beginning.

"We're going to go into Waziristan, all those regions, with army operations," Zardari told the Sunday Times in an interview, referring to a militant stronghold on the Afghan border.

Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, who authorities accused of masterminding the 2007 assassination of Zardari's wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, is based in South Waziristan.

Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is believed to be hiding out somewhere along the border.

About 15,000 members of the security forces are fighting between 4,000 and 5,000 militants in Swat, the military says.................MUCH MORE HERE.......
Pakistan urges civilians to flee from Swat
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Old 05-22-2009, 05:33 PM
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Default Re: Pakistan urges civilians to flee from Swat

Still fighting.........................................

.Pakistani military shows off captured Taliban base

By CHRIS BRUMMITT, Associated Press Writer Chris Brummitt, Associated Press Writer 25 mins ago
BANAI BABA ZIARAT, Pakistan A Pakistani flag now flies over army troops dug in on a strategic ridge that until two days ago was held by the Taliban, a base where militants trained fighters, built tunnels and equipped caves with electricity and air vents.

The takeover of the highest Taliban stronghold in the Swat Valley by troops who stormed up its jagged, rubble-strewn slopes is evidence of the success of Pakistan's month-old army offensive. The action has been welcomed by the United States, which fears the nuclear-armed country is capitulating to the militants.

But much of the region still remains in the hands of the militants, including Buner a district just 60 miles from the capital Islamabad and the focus of intense air and ground operations in recent weeks, according to witnesses and police officers who spoke to an Associated Press reporter in its main town Friday.

Several residents pointed to the mountains and warned that the Taliban were not far away.

Police were still too frightened to enter parts of Buner and the town of Dagar, 12 miles away, which the military said was "liberated" from the Taliban.

"We have been destroyed by the Taliban," said white-bearded Ayub Khan, as army trucks rumbled past a ruined market and a charred gas station where a suicide bomber had killed four soldiers in the early days of the battle.

The Obama administration has declared eliminating militant havens in Pakistan vital to its goals of defeating al-Qaida and winning the war in neighboring Afghanistan. U.S military officers say insurgents use Pakistan as a base to launch attacks over the frontier in Afghanistan.

But Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, the top U.S. general in eastern Afghanistan, said there was evidence that insurgents were crossing into Pakistan, possibly to join the fight in Swat and other regions of the northwest where militants are holed up.

His comments come amid concern in Washington and Islamabad that the ongoing buildup of 21,000 additional U.S. forces in Afghanistan may end up pushing Taliban militants into Pakistan, further destabilizing its border region.

The Swat offensive has triggered an exodus of nearly 1.9 million refugees, more than 160,000 to sweltering camps, while the rest have been taken in by relatives, friends or in rented accommodation. Foreign countries and the United Nations are donating money to relieve the crisis.

Unlike other campaigns against Taliban and al-Qaida militants, the current offensive has broad political and public support in Pakistan, but some fear that could drain away if the refugees are seen to be neglected or the fighting drags on.

The army claims to have killed more than 1,000 militants, but said Friday the Taliban control the main town of Mingora; Piochar, a side-valley farther north that is a Taliban base; and several other districts. The army said those areas are increasingly surrounded by Pakistani troops.
..........................................MORE HERE.........................................

Pakistani military shows off captured Taliban base - Yahoo! News
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Old 05-26-2009, 01:19 PM
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Default Re: Pakistan urges civilians to flee from Swat

Pakistani forces claim advance in Swat valley

By MUNIR AHMAD, Associated Press Writer Munir Ahmad, Associated Press Writer 1 hr 37 mins ago
ISLAMABAD Pakistani troops fighting street-by-street with Taliban militants have regained control of more than half of the largest town in the Swat valley, and many insurgents were now fleeing the battlefield, military commanders said Tuesday.

The militant threat has made Pakistan's Western allies increasingly anxious to see political stability in the country a goal that may be helped by a top Pakistani court's decision Tuesday to lift an election ban on opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, the country's most popular politician according to polls.

Sharif is now free to contest national elections in 2013 and become elected to parliament in a by-election. He had been blocked because of a criminal conviction in 2000 he has insisted was politically motivated.

Tuesday's ruling removes a source of uncertainty and possible political conflict as the nuclear-armed country battles Taliban insurgents spreading out from the lawless northeast.

Officials said the military's monthlong offensive was advancing in the Swat valley, where a growing humanitarian crisis is adding pressure to the government, which is being tested in its resolve to stand up to the militants.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees on Tuesday said nearly 2.4 million people have been uprooted by the violence, with people being forced from their homes at a rate of about 126,000 people day one of the sharpest rates of displacement in recent world history.

The numbers were being cross-checked for accuracy, but there was no immediate sign that conditions were improving, UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said in Geneva.

And Human Rights Watch warned that a curfew keeping thousands of residents trapped in the valley in their homes for long periods risks causing a humanitarian catastrophe because food, water and medicine is running out.

Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, chief spokesman for Pakistan's army, gave an upbeat assessment Tuesday of the campaign, which is strongly backed by U.S. officials who want Pakistan to root out al-Qaida and Taliban havens used to plan attacks on Western troops in nearby Afghanistan. Swat is considered an important test of the Muslim nation's ability and willingness to do so.
.............................More Here..................................
Pakistani forces claim advance in Swat valley - Yahoo! News
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Old 05-30-2009, 12:29 PM
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Default Re: Pakistan urges civilians to flee from Swat

I guess the Pakistan Army has been doing overtime. And the battle continues.

Military retakes largest town in Swat Valley

By ROHAN SULLIVAN, Associated Press Writer Rohan Sullivan, Associated Press Writer 44 mins ago
ISLAMABAD The Taliban have fled the Pakistani army's advance on the main town in the Swat Valley, delivering the military a strategic prize in its offensive against militants in the country's northwest, commanders said Saturday.

Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said an unknown number of militant fighters were able to escape Mingora town despite the military having it surrounded, raising the prospect that they could return to the fight elsewhere.

The military launched a major offensive about one month ago in the Swat Valley and neighboring areas to oust Taliban militants who had been extending their control over the northwestern region near the border with Afghanistan.

U.S. and other officials say the lawless border region is being used by al-Qaida and the Taliban as a base to plan and launch attacks on Western forces in Afghanistan, and see the offensive as a test of Pakistan's resolve to fight extremism on its soil.

Government troops had been advancing steadily into the Swat region for about a month, bombarding towns from the air and fighting house-to-house with Taliban gunmen in some places.

In Mingora, militants had dug themselves into bunkers built into hotels and government buildings, and initially offered stiff resistance as troops first closed roads leading to the town then began moving in earlier this week, Abbas said.

"When they realized that if they did not leave these areas the noose would tighten around them and they would not find a way to leave ... they decided to end the fight and leave," Abbas said.
........................MUCH MORE HERE................................

Pakistani army retakes largest town in Swat Valley - Yahoo! News
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Old 05-31-2009, 03:01 PM
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Default Re: Pakistan urges civilians to flee from Swat

Futher updates.

Troops hunt Taliban as Pakistan says victory near

by Lehaz Ali Lehaz Ali Sun May 31, 9:49 am ET
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) Pakistan's defence secretary said Sunday that a month-long offensive to crush Taliban fighters in the northwest could end within days, as fierce fighting spilled into a nearby tribal area.

Swat valley's main town Mingora is back in government hands, the military announced late Saturday, and security officials said they were now pursuing the top leadership of the hardline Taliban movement into the nearby mountains.

Secretary of Defence Syed Athar Ali told a security forum in Singapore that three targeted northwest districts were almost clear of Taliban rebels.

"Operations in Swat, Buner and adjoining areas have almost met complete success," he said.

"Only five to ten percent of the job is remaining and hopefully within the next two to three days these pockets of resistance will be cleared."

The army remains locked in battle in some areas, but the fall of Mingora was a critical milestone in an offensive launched after the Taliban thrust to within 100 kilometres (60 miles) of Islamabad in April.

Pakistan's military also reported that 25 militants and seven soldiers were killed in clashes in South Waziristan near the Afghan border, a bolt-hole for Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants south of the current army bombardment.

"Miscreants attacked a security forces checkpost last night (Saturday) in Spinkai Raghzai, South Waziristan agency. The attack was repulsed successfully, inflicting heavy casualties on militants," it said in a statement.

Fifteen militants and three soldiers died in the clash in Spinkai Raghzai, while elsewhere in the semi-autonomous tribal area 10 insurgents and four troops including a lieutenant died when rebels attacked a military convoy.
......................MUCH MORE HERE...........................................
Troops hunt Taliban as Pakistan says victory near - Yahoo! News
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Old 05-31-2009, 07:08 PM
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Default Re: Pakistan urges civilians to flee from Swat

More news........

Analysis: True Swat victory won't be military

NAHAL TOOSI, Associated Press Writer Nahal Toosi, Associated Press Writer Sun May 31, 2:36 pm ET
ISLAMABAD Pakistan says it is close to beating the Taliban in the Swat Valley, but battlefield success alone does not equal victory: Militant commanders are still at large, local governments and police forces have been decimated and millions of residents are displaced from their homes.

Even if Pakistan succeeds in eliminating insurgents in one of its most intense operations yet, the northwestern valley is just one of several militant strongholds in the U.S.-allied country and not even the most important.

Already, fighting is flaring in the semiautonomous tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, where al-Qaida and the Taliban are more entrenched than they were in Swat.

The U.S. sees Swat as a test of nuclear-armed Pakistan's ability and willingness to tackle insurgents in the northwest blamed for attacks on American and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Over the weekend, the Pakistani army said it had reclaimed Mingora, Swat's main town. The defense secretary said Sunday the whole valley could be back in control within two or three days, though other officials have given longer timeframes.

In announcing Mingora's capture, army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas acknowledged the escape of an unknown number of militants. So far, no top commanders, including Swat Taliban chief Maulana Fazlullah, are known to have been killed or captured. Some parts of the valley remain under militant control.

After a violent, two-year Taliban campaign, the valley's local administrative authorities have been severely damaged, with top lawmakers, government officials and business leaders fleeing months ago.

Militants in Swat frequently targeted police, while desertions further thinned their ranks. In December, officials said about 300 policemen had fled the force, figures sure to have risen in the months since.

Re-establishing local government most importantly bringing back police patrols is critical to holding Swat once the army offensive ends. To do that well could take months, possibly years.

For now, it appears the army and paramilitary forces will have to act as the police, as they were already trying to do in many parts of Swat before the offensive.

The military insists it has tried to minimize civilian casualties and property damage in Swat's towns, knowing public support could wane otherwise.

Still, video footage and reporters' accounts from various parts of the valley and nearby districts indicate significant destruction. For many of the 3 million refugees, a return could mean finding a crushed home or damaged businesses, fueling popular anger and hampering efforts to jump-start the local economy in a region that was once a jewel of Pakistani tourism.
.............................More Here.....................................
Analysis: True Swat victory won't be military - Yahoo! News
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Old 06-01-2009, 03:35 PM
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Default Re: Pakistan urges civilians to flee from Swat

Taliban abduct hundreds in Pakistani tribal region

By ASHRAF KHAN and NAHAL TOOSI, Associated Press Writer Ashraf Khan And Nahal Toosi, Associated Press Writer – 2 hrs 16 mins ago
ISLAMABAD – Taliban militants armed with rockets, grenades and automatic weapons abducted at least 400 students, staff and relatives driving away from a boy's school in a northwest Pakistani tribal region
on Monday, police and a witness said.

The brazen abduction came amid rising militant violence in Pakistan's tribal belt — actions the military says are partly aimed at distracting it from its offensive against the Taliban in the nearby Swat Valley.

Police were negotiating with the Taliban via tribal elders to release of the captives taken in North Waziristan, said Mirza Mohammad Jihadi, an adviser to the prime minister. He said around 500 people were taken and that they were being held in the Bakka Khel area.

Details were still emerging late Monday about what happened, and much was murky.

Police official Meer Sardar said the abduction occurred about 20 miles (30 kilometers) from Razmak Cadet College in North Waziristan. The people were leaving the school area after they were warned to get out in a phone call from a man they believed to be a political official, Sardar said, citing accounts from a group of 17 who managed to get away.

Local media, however, reported that the group was leaving because their vacation had started.

Around 30 buses, cars and other vehicles were carrying the students, staff and others when they were stopped along the road by a large group of alleged militants in their own vehicles, according to a staff member at the school who was among those who escaped. The vehicle he was traveling in happened to be behind a truck on the road, and it was less visible, so the driver slipped away.

He requested anonymity out of fear of Taliban reprisal but said the school's principal was among those abducted.

The staffer said the assailants carried rockets, Kalashnikovs, hand grenades and other weapons. He estimated around 400 captives were involved.

It was unclear how many were students, though they made up the majority of the group. Cadet colleges in Pakistan are usually run by retired military officers and educate teenagers. They also typically provide room and board.

Late Monday, reports were coming in that at least one other bus managed to get away and reach a police station. Jihadi said at least 29 students escaped, apparently in addition to the 17 at Sardar's police station in the Marian area.

North and South Waziristan are major al-Qaida and Taliban strongholds bordering Afghanistan.

Clashes over the past three days in South Waziristan have killed at least 25 militants and nine soldiers. In the latest attack, reported by the army Monday, militants fired rockets at troops, killing two.

The fresh fighting is fueling speculation that a month after re-igniting its battle against Taliban militants in Swat, the military will widen the offensive to South Waziristan. But army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said that for now, troops on the ground were simply reacting to attacks, not opening a new front.

"This is all to divert attention," Abbas said........................MORE HERE.............................................. .....................................
Taliban abduct hundreds in Pakistani tribal region - Yahoo! News
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