KHAR, Oct 25: Security forces have flushed out militants from some of their strongholds in Bajaur and regained control of most of the troubled spots, including Lowi Sam, the Frontier Corps inspector-general said on Saturday.

Maj-Gen Tariq Khan told journalists during a guided tour of the militancy-infested region that the security forces were now in control of strongholds like Tang Khatta, Rashakai and Lowi Sam.

However, he added, it could still take several months to extirpate the militants, he said.

The IGFC said that the government was not providing any weapons or incentives to the tribal Lashkars operating against militants in the Bajaur tribal region.

The tribesmen have risen up against militants because of the deteriorating law and order situation in Bajaur, he added.

Maj-Gen Tariq Khan said that about 1,500 militants lost their lives while at least 300 foreigners had been captured since the launch of the operation in early August.

He said that 73 soldiers — 42 belonging to the Army and 31 to FC — lost their lives while 269 others were injured during the hostilities.

The FC chief said an immediate withdrawal of the army from the region was not possible as the operation might last another few months. Four additional wings of Frontier Corps would be deployed to the area soon.

About 500 militants were still engaged in fighting with the security forces, Maj-Gen Tariq added.

In reply to a query, he disclosed that security forces had destroyed all houses on both sides of the eight-kilometre road from Tang Khatta to Lowi Sam. Militants had converted the houses into bunkers, he added.

In reply to another question, he said FC personnel were being trained in fighting insurgency by “master trainers” from the United States.

Maj-Gen Athar Abbas, the director-general of the ISPR, told journalists that Lowi Sam was strategically important as it links Bajaur to Mohmand Agency, Dir and Afghanistan.

He admitted that the troops had faced stiff resistance from militants during their advance. The troops had overrun many bunkers and tunnels used by militants for attacking security forces, he added.

Agencies add: Maj-Gen Tariq Khan said it could take authorities six months to a year to gain complete control of Bajaur.

The region has been seen as a possible hiding place for Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, but the general said the troops had not picked up their trail.

Nearly 200,000 people have fled the fighting, many of them to rough camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The military launched the Bajur operation when militants attacked troops trying to set up a checkpoint in Loi Sam on August 8. Commanders said the troops had to retreat because their reinforcements were ambushed.

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