ISLAMABAD: Pakistan said yesterday its troops seized control of the main town in the northwest region of Buner after fierce fighting with Taliban in which over 50 militants were killed. Meanwhile, officials yesterday said that shootouts in the southern port city of Karachi have killed at least 20 people. Provincial minister Faisal Sabzwari said the violence is aimed at fanning ethnic unrest in the city.
Sabzwari said two security force members were wounded in the sporadic firing. Witnesses said two dozen vehicles were torched in different areas of Karachi, which has a history of ethnic violence. The fighting in the Buner region came after the military Tuesday launched a ground and air offensive in Buner, near the troubled Swat Valley, to flush out militants from the area.
Troops also recovered 18 of around 70 police and paramilitaries abducted by militants in the area Tuesday, chief military spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas told a news briefing. “We have received reports of more than 50 casualties since yesterday,” he said, adding that troops also destroyed two explosives dumps.
At least 60 personnel of police and the Frontier Constabulary were taken hostage by Taliban in Buner’s Pir Baba area. A convoy of security personnel entered Buner from Mardan after imposition of curfew. Security forces set up a checkpoint on a road at Babajee Kandow, around six kilometers into Buner.
Militants earlier took control of the Pir Baba area, including a police station, and took hostage 43 personnel of the Frontier Constabulary and 17 policemen. The SHO of the police station, Bukht Raj, was among the hostages.
Up to 500 Taliban militants entered Buner earlier this month and imposed Shariah law in what the Pakistani military called a “violation” of an agreement struck earlier in the year with Islamists to bring peace to the region.
The operation to flush out the rebels and prevent them gaining ground in the troubled country had the full backing of Washington, which has put Pakistan at the heart of the battle against terrorists and Al-Qaeda militants.
Abbas said troops had “successfully secured Dagar,” the main town in Buner district, and established links with police and paramilitary soldiers there, but militants were occupying three police stations in nearby villages. One security officer had died in “fierce fighting” with the militants and three others have been wounded, he added. “We are restrained by the fact that militants have made the people of Buner hostages,” he said.
Abbas said an Arab correspondent of Al-Jazeera TV, Abdul Rahman Matar, was wounded after his vehicle was caught up in crossfire in Dagar. “This is very unfortunate incident. He was given medical treatment and he is stable now,” the general said adding that Matar’s other colleagues were safe.
The latest Pakistani military operation launched Tuesday comes after a similar offensive mounted in nearby Lower Dir over the weekend that swelled the number of people displaced by fighting in northwest Pakistan.
Courtesy: Arab News