MINGORA, Dec 7: Local people forced militants to leave a checkpoint in Matta town late on Thursday night. It is learnt that having come to know from announcements made on loudspeakers that militants had been attacking the Khareri checkpost, a large number of people came out to stop their advance.

The militants had entered the area from their hideouts in Chuprial and Shore. Local people reportedly asked the militants to retreat and warned them against moving ahead.

The militants allegedly opened fire. The local people returned fire. At least one man was injured in the exchange of fire.

Security forces fired light-canon shells to illuminate the area, forcing the militants to run away.

The government’s media centre claimed that the attackers numbered about 150.

Meanwhile, security forces announced rewards for local people providing information leading to arrests of militants. The media centre said Rs100,000 would be given for information about a local militant and Rs200,000 for helping in the arrest of a foreign militant.

NWFP Governor Lt. Gen (retd) Ali Mohammad Jan Aurakzai visited the district and said that election would be held on schedule and efforts would be made to enable the people to cast their votes and elect their representatives.

“The situation in Fata and Swat is the result of developments that took place across the border in the aftermath of 9/11,” the governor said, adding that the situation would soon become normal and development activities would be resumed in all affected areas of the district.

Addressing local elders, Mr Aurakzai said the 1.6 million people of the valley had been held hostage by about two per cent of their own people and army intervention had become inevitable.

He said police and Frontier Constabulary forces would be strengthened and peace would be restored in the area soon.

Meanwhile, curfew was relaxed in the district from 7am till 6pm on Friday. It would be relaxed for the same duration on Saturday.

The ISPR said security forces had pounded militant positions north of Matta with artillery fire.

There were reports that three suspected militants were arrested on Thursday night at two different checkposts. The government claimed that the suspects had come from Bara Banda and had strong links with Maulana Fazlullah.

Security forces have been patrolling the area between Mingora and Matta. People in some areas have established village defence committees to curb militancy in their area.