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Swat offensive in final phase: Pakistan

June 29, 2009 22:29 IST
Pakistan on Monday said its anti-Taliban operations in Swat had entered the final phase with troops having "totally dismantled" the militants' infrastructure, even as over 30 rebels and 16 soldiers were killed in fresh fighting in the unruly North West Frontier Province and Waziristan.

The operations in Swat are in their final stage and expected to end in a few days as only a little area remains to be cleared of militants, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira told mediapersons.

He, however, warned that militants could still carry out blasts and other attacks due to frustration or desperation.

Troops had moved in from different directions and "linked up at critical junctions," he said.

The militants' command structure had been "totally dismantled" and their training centres and ammunition dumps destroyed.

Chief military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said 18 militants were killed in fighting over the past 24 hours in Swat and North Waziristan.

Sixteen soldiers, including three officers, were killed and six soldiers injured in an attack on an army convoy in North Waziristan on Sunday, he added.

TV news channels reported that 16 militants were killed as Pakistani jets bombarded and destroyed three rebel hideouts in Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud's stronghold of South Waziristan, where the army is readying for a full-scale ground offensive.

The homes of three Taliban commanders were dismantled while top commander Ikramullah was shot dead along with two others in the tribal region, the channels reported.

A lashkar or tribal militia formed by residents of Upper Dir to avenge a suicide attack on a mosque killed two militants and arrested 14 more during clashes on Monday.

The lashkar was closing in on Taliban positions in two villages in the district, reports said.

With troops securing Biha valley in the north and Shamozai in the west, the main areas occupied by militants in Swat had been cleared, Abbas said.

Militant recruits had either been killed or driven away and rebel headquarters at Peochar, Chaprial, Matta, Khwazakhela, Mingora, Kabal, Saidu Sharif and Biha had been destroyed, he added.

Referring to the attack on an army convoy in North Waziristan, he said the assault was "totally unprovoked" as troops were not conducting any operations in the area.

The militants targeted the convoy with improvised explosive devices and resorted to intense firing. Among the soldiers killed were a lieutenant colonel, a captain and a lieutenant.

Twelve soldiers died on Sunday while four succumbed to their injuries on Monday. Ten militants were killed when troops retaliated against the attack.

In Swat, eight militants were killed when security forces raided a compound in Khwazakhela on a tip-off. The troops also seized some weapons and explosives.

A militant was captured by troops during a search operation near Shangla.

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