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Pak forces surround Mingora; 5,000 Taliban men dug in

By Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
Last updated on: May 14, 2009 22:37 IST
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Pakistani military on Thursday surrounded the Swat valley capital Mingora where around 5,000 armed Taliban fighters were dug in for a long haul with roads being mined and trenches dug and a deadly battle loomed for control of the strategic town.

Fifty-four militants and nine soldiers were killed in intense fighting in the country's rugged north-western region, as the military relentlessly pounded Taliban positions.

Security forces, backed by helicopter gunships and artillery were moving towards the Taliban-controlled Mingora, from four directions and had achieved a "lot of success" while keeping collateral damage low, chief military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said.

Pakistan army had airdropped commandos behind Taliban lines early this week and said its forces had surrounded an estimated 4,000-5,000 fighters in and around Mingora, but so far have not marched into the town.

"We have surrounded Mingora. Our strategy is to encircle them," Abbas said, implying that the military had still not come up with a plan to overcome the well-entrenched Taliban.

Fifty-four militants, including three snipers, were killed in fighting in Mingora, Udigram and Peochar, a remote mountainous region where the Taliban have their main base.

"Nine Army personnel have also embraced shahadat (martyrdom)," Abbas said.

Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani visited the frontline and expressed his resolve to defeat the extremists.

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Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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