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Militants capture key installations in Swat

May 05, 2009

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An empty market is seen in Mingora, the largest city in Swat district. Panicked civilians fled Swat as clashes with the Taliban heightened -AP Photo/Naveed Ali

MINGORA Taliban militants occupied commissioner Malakand, DIG and district Nazim offices and took siege of other key installations and offices including the Circuit House, Saidu Sharif and Mingora police stations and grid station as thousands of Swatis were fleeing in panic and fear on Tuesday.

Eleven people, including two security personnel, police sub-inspector Ali Shah and eight civilians were killed and several others injured as bullets rattled through parts of district headquarter Mingora on Tuesday, sources said.

The security forces reportedly repulsed several attacks of militants but waiting for reinforcement. Official sources said five people died overnight in trade fire between security forces and armed Taliban.

Residents said hundreds of militants have taken positions on rooftops and were patrolling streets, and laying mines in Mingora city. They have surrounded scores of security personnel and government functionaries in the government buildings.

The Circuit House is presently converted into military offices including its command and control system and housing high military officials. Sources said fierce fighting was going on as militants were trying hard to occupy the Circuit House. The offices of Commissioner Malakand, DIG Malakand and District Nazim Swat have fallen to the Taliban militants after the exchange of heavy fire.

A large number of panic-gripped Sawtis fled from Mingora and suburbs after local administration issued an evacuation order igniting fears of an imminent new offensive in the violence-ravaged Swat valley.

Residents said thousands of people were fleeing to safer places when local administration relaxed curfew from 130 pm to 700 pm on Tuesday and urged them to get out of militant-infested areas. The administration has clamped an indefinite curfew in the Swat district from Monday.

The statement, issued by DC Khushal Khan, triggered mass exodus from Mingora for the first time since gunbattle had started in Swat valley. About one-third of the total 1.5 million people had migrated to other parts of the country since the launching of the 'Rahi Haq' military operation but returned to their homes when the government brokered a peace deal with Tehrik Nifaz-i-Shariat Muhammadi chief Mualana Sufi Mohammad on February 16 to enforce Shariat Muhammadi in Malakand.

The administration later withdrew the order, saying the fear of fighting had passed and people could stay at homes as security forces had taken control of the area and repulsed militant attacks. But that did not reassure the fleeing residents. They weighed down with whatever belonging they could carry along with them. Some were desperately waiting to hire private vehicles or crammed into and on top of buses to get out of Mingora and its suburbs.

The violence broke out once again when the military launched assault on militants in Dir and Buner districts to stop their surge into other parts of the province.

The TNSM and Swat Taliban have rejected the setting up of Draul Qaza and the appointment of two judges as Qazi unilaterally, saying the government has violated the peace accord by not consulting Sufi Mohammad before the announcement. The TNSM spokesman at a press conference on Monday declared that they would not be responsible but that the government would be responsible for the eruption of violence in the region.

The government was of the view that it had fulfilled the demands of Sufi Mohammad by implementing the Nizam-i-Adl regulation, setting up of Darul Qaza and Qazi courts in Malakand but the militants are not ready to lay arms and restore peace in the region.