Pakistan's military claims capture of Taliban stronghold

Saturday, May 23, 2009

According to military officials in Pakistan, they have succeeded in driving back Talibani forces from two key strongholds in the Swat Valley. After a two week battle, which reportedly left hundreds dead, the militants were dislodged from the mountain ridge Biny Baba Ziarat.

"It was very difficult to dislodge them even with the support of helicopter gunship and fighter jets," Brigadier Suba Khan said while speaking to assembled members of the press.

"They fought till the last men," added Lieutenant-Colonel Mohamed Riaz, who was credited with leading the final charge.

File photo of a Pakistani soldier during a training mission.
Image: Inter Services Public Relations.

“Essentially, at this point in time, we are looking at eliminating the hard core militants,” explained Major General Sajjad Ghani, who said that troops were closing in on another stronghold. "The commandoes have already landed on the mountain peaks and ridges [at Peochar]. The militants are surrounded and encircled from all sides. They are hemmed in. And this is the right time that the security forces can go with full might and kill and eliminate the residual militants in the Peochar valley."

The Pakistan Army established a base at a girls' college in Khawazakhela, in part to protect it. "The Taliban would have blown it up had we not established our base here," said Lt. Col. Abdul Rehman. The Taliban targeted girls’ schools and banned female education while they were in control of the Swat Valley.

"They are not Muslims despite their claims to be so," said Lt. Asad Hanif. "A true Muslim cannot slaughter people like the Taliban have been doing."

Meanwhile, a car bomb which was set off at a movie theatre in Peshawar killed six people and injured at least another 75. The bombing raised fears that the Taliban would strike back using bombs in urban areas of Pakistan.

"Such incidents will increase in coming days if the government does not stop the operation in Swat and change its policy," said political activist Mohammed Iqbal.


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