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By Catherine Maddux
The Pakistani military says it has prevailed over Taliban militants in Mingora, the main town in Swat Valley. The military says it gained control a week after re-entering the town to dislodge Taliban fighters.
Major General Athar Abbas (File photo)
Major General Athar Abbas told reporters that government forces are in full control of Mingora, despite encountering pockets of resistance on the outskirts of the town.
Abbas said 25 militants, including two top Taliban commanders, were killed and three other commanders were arrested during military operations over the past 24 hours.
He said a huge cache of arms and ammunition were discovered along with a training base of militant leader Maulana Fazlullah, whose fighters have waged a two year long battle to impose strict Islamic law in the region.
Abbas said local citizens were key to the military’s success in Mingora.
“The people of Mingora have started pinpointing the militants who were trying to pose as innocent citizens,” he said.
Even with Mingora in hand, Abbas said the battle was far from over in Swat, where government forces are still fighting militants in two other neighboring districts.
Abbas also said the battle includes keeping track of top Taliban militants in the region.
“We are refraining from announcing or declaration unless or until in hand, some proof, some smoking gun, which is difficult but we are trying our best. But I can assure you, that the top tier leadership have been targeted and it is constantly being followed with our intelligence,” he said.
It is impossible to independently confirm information released by the Pakistani military because the conflict area is closed to non-combatants.
Military analysts say the real sign of military success will be if the Pakistani army can hold its territory and keep Taliban militants from coming back to fight another day.
The military launched a major offensive nearly one month ago in Swat Valley and neighboring areas to oust Taliban militants who were extending their control over the northwestern region, near the border with Afghanistan.
The campaign is strongly backed by Washington and other Western allies, who see it as a test of the government’s resolve to fight extremism in the Pakistan.
The United Nations says the fighting has caused more than 2 million people to flee the region, raising fears of a humanitarian crisis.
Major cities, including the capital, Islamabad, were put on high alert after a top Taliban commander claimed responsibility for the Lahore attack, calling it revenge for the Swat Valley offensive