Troops secure Banai Baba Ziarat, prepare for assault on major militant strongholds of Mingora and Kambar— AP/File

ISLAMABAD The security forces achieved a major success on Thursday by almost taking control of strategically-located Kamber bridge which overlooks Mingora city and directly accesses Kamber town in Swat, defence sources told Dawn.

They said terrorists had constructed concrete bunkers and had dumped arms, ammunition and explosives in caves in the area. Intense search and destroy operations were underway in the area to cut the supply of weaponry to terrorists operating in Mingora.

They said the security forces had reached both the sides of Ayub Bridge and the bridge will be completely blocked before launching a full scale operation in Mingora city. They said most of the local population of Mingora had left and the terrorists were still present in the area.

They said the Kamber town was the hub of terrorists and four main commanders of Maulana Fazlullah were from the area.

Military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas when contacted confirmed the progress of security forces taking over control of almost three-fourths of the Kamber bridge.

He said that the security forces had killed several terrorists including an important commander Abu Tariq during intense fighting in various areas of Swat.

He said the operation Rah e Rast was progressing well and besides inflicting casualties on the miscreants another seven had been apprehended. This brings the number of terrorists so far arrested to 25, in addition to the almost 30 foreign nationals arrested by the security forces from different areas.

He said five soldiers laid down their lives while another seven, including an officer, were injured. He said exchange of fire and fierce fighting was going on in different areas of Swat.
 
He said the security forces had cleared a number of miscreants' hideouts in the Peochar Valley and were conducting search and destroy operations. Firefights are taking place between terrorists and security forces. Troops has secured and cleared the area up to Shahid Khapa, he added.

Security forces are strengthening their positions around Takhtaband Bridge, Barikot, Gokdara, Udigram area. A number of miscreants were killed while five soldiers lost their lives and four others were injured in Kanju and Takhtaband area.

Security Forces attacked Banai Baba Ziarat, the highest point in the area and a 'miscreants-terrorists' stronghold. It has been fully secured, soouces said
 
Meanwhile, Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani Thursday visited Daggar in Buner District to see first hand progress of operations on ground. He met the commanders and troops participating in ongoing operations and had an informal discussion with them. COAS appreciated the morale of the troops. He was also briefed about operations by the field commanders.

Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman Chief of Air Staff Pakistan Air Force also visited an operational Base on Thursday, from where Air Operations were being undertaken against the Militants in Swat Valley and adjoining areas.

On His arrival at the Operational Base, he was briefed by the Base Commander about the significant aspects of Air Operations.

Addressing the airmen of the Base, the Air Chief said PAF undertook its obligations towards National security and was therefore supporting Pakistan

He said the PAF was striking targets located in isolated areas. PAF was using only precision guided munitions to avoid civilian casualties and collateral damage. He said intelligence and information about targets was being provided to PAF by the ground forces engaged with the militants. Pak Army as well as the PAF were extremely careful about targets selection to avoid civilian casualties and collateral damage during the operation.

He said the targets engaged by PAF included militants' tunnel structures, ammunition dumps, militants training camps and militant commanders' hideouts.

The Air Chief said PAF was also contributing significantly towards the relief efforts of the IDPs. It is in the process of setting up a relief camp for 250 families and a field hospital, which will be run by the NWFP government and sustained by the PAF. PAF will handover the camp and relief goods to NWFP government shortly. He further said the PAF will continue its relief operations by airlifting relief goods from Karachi, Quetta and Lahore by utilizing its transports aircraft fleet to ensure speedy delivery of the relief goods to needy IDPs.

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