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Food blockade in Swat areas

November 23, 2007

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SWAT, Nov 22: In an attempt to increase pressure on militants, the authorities on Thursday imposed a food blockade in parts of Swat amid reports that a full-fledged ground assault is being planned by security forces.

Officials in the district said they had imposed the blockade to stop food supplies to the militants, adding that checkpoints had been established in Kabal, Kanju and Sangotha in the north of the district to ensure that nothing was taken to the ‘battled zone’.

The blockade came into effect around midday on Thursday and would remain in force till the objectives were achieved, officials said.

The militant camp appeared to have been worried by the blockade as their spokesman Sirajuddin threatened to unleash suicide bombers if the authorities did not lift it.

The officials said that food items going to Khwazakhela, Charbagh, Kalam, Madyan, Bahrain, Matta and Shangla would be seized.

The officials also said that the military’s signal corps had blocked Maulana Fazlullah’s FM radio and the militants in control of Fazlullah madressah on the banks of River Swat had pulled down their antenna.

The military has set up five of their own FM channels, including one using Fazlullah’s radio frequency to block the cleric’s broadcasts.

The official said the army was using the frequency to broadcast Quranic verses to counter Fazlullah’s pre-recorded broadcasts. “We are not using the radio to indulge in propaganda,” the official claimed.

Security forces continued to rely on helicopter gunships and artillery to pound suspected militant positions.

However, local residents said that two civilians were killed in Khwazakhela while two others died in Kabal.

A vehicle also came under fire and one man died and another suffered injuries.