9 militants killed in Swat Valley

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani security forces killed nine militants, including two commanders, in weekend battles in the northwestern Swat Valley, the military said today.

Pakistan has largely beaten back a Taliban insurgency in Swat in recent months and intelligence officials say the country is preparing a major offensive against al-Qaida and Taliban in their stronghold in South Waziristan.

The US hopes Pakistan can eliminate safe havens for militants involved in attacks on American and NATO troops in neighboring Afghanistan.

Security forces killed three militants in the Swat Valley Saturday and arrested 16 others, according to a statement from the forces. In a subsequent battle today, security forces and special police battled militants in a firefight that killed six of the insurgents, including two commanders, Noorul Amin and Fazl-e-Rabbi, the army said. One soldier was wounded, the statement said.

It was not possible to independently confirm the statements.

Meanwhile, police in Peshawar arrested a militant Sunday who was involved in attacking and looting convoys taking supplies to US and NATO forces in Afghanistan and recovered a substantial quantity of stolen goods, Peshawar police chief Liaquat Ali Khan said.

Khan identified the arrested man, Hukam Khan, as an important member of a militant band of looters who also kidnapped people for ransom.