Exodus continues from Shangla; 25 killed

Published November 21, 2007

MINGORA, Nov 20: With thousands of people fleeing the violence-hit areas of the Swat valley, at least 16 militants and nine civilians were killed and 35 others suffered injuries on Tuesday in clashes in Shangla district.

Most of the people of Kabal sub-division’s Akhund and Dagai villages left their homes and moved to other places following a warning given by security forces on Monday about impending military actions.

Civilians were reported fleeing in large numbers from various parts of Shangla and the government sought the help of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to set up four relief camps.

Maulana Fazlullah’s spokesman, meanwhile, claimed that 15 soldiers had been killed and their weapons seized in the district, but the calm could not be confirmed from independent sources.

The spokesman offered a temporary ceasefire for burying the dead and evacuating the wounded people from Shangla and Swat districts.

Meanwhile, militants attacked a police station in Kabal area late on Tuesday evening and three rockets landed near an army camp, residents said. No casualty was reported in the incidents.

A military statement released in Peshawar on Tuesday said that 20 insurgents had been killed and 40 others wounded. It added that helicopter gunships and artillery guns were used against positions of militants in Swat district.

In an area south of a Frontier Constabulary camp, troops attacked the Kanju militant position with artillery and mortar on Monday evening. The exact figure of casualties could not be known, the statement said.

Two militant commanders, Mohammad Yousaf and Mohammad Amin, were among the dead. Their funeral prayers were offered on Tuesday.

Militants, meanwhile, were reported to have started kidnapping local people, particularly their opponents, in certain areas of Swat.

Local people said that troops, backed by artillery and Cobra helicopters, pounded targets in Ghurband tehsil of Shangla, where Fazlullah’s supporters were holding their ground.

Security officials said that troops were advancing towards Alpuri, the district headquarters of Shangla, on the road connecting Alpuri with Bisham, another major town in the troubled district.

With tensions escalating in the two districts, a high-level meeting in Peshawar, chaired by NWFP Governor Ali Mohammad Jan Aurakzai, decided to request the UNHCR to set up relief camps for the internally displaced families, an official handout said. Four tent villages would be established in Bari Kot, Dargai, Bisham and ardan.

The meeting was informed that relief items, including foodstuff and medicines, had been sent to the affected areas.

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