Pak regains Swat main town from Taliban

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s military said today troops had regained control of the main town in a key northwestern district from the Taliban, in what would be a significant milestone in a month-long offensive.

The announcement came three days after the military vowed to wipe out the Taliban from Mingora, the administrative and commercial hub of the mountainous Swat valley, a region that has been torn apart by a two-year Taliban uprising.

“Security forces control the city. The Mingora fight is finished,” chief military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told AFP. “Mingora is now under full control of the army,” the spokesman announced publicly at a news conference.

It is impossible to confirm independently information released by the army because the conflict area is a closed military zone.

Abbas emphasised that while Mingora was cleared, the battle was far from over in the valley, where government forces are locked in a fight against Taliban guerrillas, and in the neighbouring districts of Buner and Lower Dir.

“We’re only talking about Mingora. Much more fight in Swat is left,” the military spokesman told AFP. But without laying claim to Mingora, the largest town in the district, the military would be unable to claim victory in Swat. Taliban extremists determined to enforce their harsh brand of Islamic law had for weeks patrolled the streets of the town, but a Taliban spokesman said recently that fighters were withdrawing to prevent civilian deaths.

Pakistan has said that around 15,000 soldiers are fighting up to 2,000 Taliban fighters in Swat.