Saturday, May 30, 2009

Pakistan’s Mingora City Brought Under Army Control (Update1)

By Farhan Sharif

May 30 (Bloomberg) -- Pakistani security forces today regained control of Mingora, the Swat Valley's main city, from Taliban insurgents after more than a month of fighting to wrest control of the region.

The army is sweeping for mines and clearing traps in the area, Major General Athar Abbas, a military spokesman, said at a news conference in Islamabad. As many as 25 militants and one soldier were killed and four people injured during the past 24 hours, he said.

"It is fortunate that the army has secured Mingora's control," Abbas said.

Pakistani forces have been battling an estimated 4,000 insurgents who reneged on a February accord and advanced closer to Islamabad, even after the government agreed to impose Islamic law in the region. More than 1,100 militants and 91 soldiers have been killed since the offensive began April 26, according to the army.

Bombs tore through three Pakistani cities this past week killing a total of at least 47 people and injuring hundreds after the Taliban threatened to avenge the army offensive.

Three bombs exploded on May 29 in the northwestern city of Peshawar, hitting a marketplace and police checkpoint. On May 27, a suicide bomb attack on a police building in the eastern city of Lahore left 35 people dead.

Pakistan's government has linked the attacks to its offensive against militants and says Pakistani Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud had warned of revenge bombings.

After more than a month of fighting, the military has said it is wresting control of the region from insurgents. The fighting has forced 2.8 million people to flee their homes, according to the provincial government.

The exodus of refugees is the biggest since Pakistan gained independence in 1947.

The military first deployed in Swat, once a popular tourist destination 250 kilometers (155 miles) northwest of Islamabad, in 2007 in an effort to crush militants who set up Islamic courts. The fighters beheaded local officials, burned schools and banned education for girls.

To contact the reporters on this story: Farhan Sharif in Karachi, Pakistan at;

Last Updated: May 30, 2009 11:26 EDT

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