‘Bloody intersection’ falls

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani troops battling the Taliban have captured several points in the Swat Valley’s main town, the army said today, including a spot nicknamed “bloody intersection” because militants routinely dumped the mutilated bodies of their victims there.

Elsewhere in the northwest, helicopter gun ships pounded alleged militant hide-outs in a tribal region, killing at least 18 people, while police said they had captured an important militant commander and six other Taliban fighters.

Al-Qaida and Taliban fighters have long had hide-outs in Pakistan’s northwest. The US has pushed Pakistan to use force to root out the insurgents, who are often involved in attacks on US troops across the border in Afghanistan. The operation in Swat has strong support from the US, and retaking Mingora, the valley’s main commercial hub, is considered critical to its success. Eight crossings were secured today while encountering at least 12 roadside bombs.