‘Cantonment in Matta planned’

Published December 5, 2007

MINGORA, Dec 4: Security forces fully secured on Tuesday the militant stronghold of Matta town, about 35kms from here.

A senior military commander claimed that 230 militants and 20 civilians had been killed in the 11-day operation in the area.

The in-charge of the Swat operation codenamed “Rah-e-Haq”, Maj-Gen Nasir Janjua, said: “If the people of Swat want the army to stay here then we will establish a cantonment in Matta town.”

He told newsmen that militants were on the run and security forces had secured all important towns in the valley.

He also said that the government was working on a Shariah package for Swat and said people would soon hear some ‘good news’ about it.

Local journalists were taken to areas secured by the forces, including the brigade headquarters set up at the Circuit House in Saidu Sharif and two strategic mountaintops, Najia Top and Usmani Sar, from where the militants have been dislodged. Journalists were shown the cache of arms found in a girls’ school and shop in Nangolai.

Maj-Gen Janjua claimed that the army had reached Swat last July but decided to wait for the outcome of talks held by a jirga with Maulana Fazlullah. “When Maulana Fazlullah crossed all limits we started the final operation on Nov 24,” he said.

“We wanted to avoid attacks on residential areas and civilian casualties and, therefore we tried to secure important mountain heights instead of plain areas,” he said, adding that 3,500 artillery shells had been fired, each weighing 70kg during the operation.

“The success of the operation was possible only with the support of the local population and had they not cooperated we would have had an uphill task in defeating the militants,” he said.

Peshawar Corps Commander Lt. Gen Masood Aslam told journalists that till the militants were completely wiped out, security forces would stay in the area.

He said the government was working on a comprehensive package, including development schemes, which would soon be announced.Colonel Sarfaraz Ahmad said that five army personnel, including a major, were killed when forces launched a major offensive to secure the mountain heights. He claimed that militants at the Najia Top were commanded by an African national, who was codenamed “Shponkay” (the shepard).

Troops were now in total control of the two mountain tops, he claimed. Some arms and ammunition, including Kalashnikovs and explosives, said to have been left behind by militants, were shown to the media.

Security forces also confirmed the arrest of a top militant commander, Maulvi Liaqat who had been allegedly supervising the Khwazakhela area from Shangla district.

The ISPR claimed that Maulvi Liaqat and three other militants had been arrested in Shangla district on Monday. Extremist literature, including one calling for the slaughter of law-enforcement personnel, were recovered from their possession.

Militants have retreated to Gutt Puchar, Chaprial and other areas in Matta tehsil and are reportedly looking for safe routes to escape the valley.

The curfew in Mingora city and areas south of it will be relaxed from 7am to 6pm on Wednesday and in areas north of it from 12 noon till 5pm.

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