Accessibility links

Pakistani Army Clears Taliban Stronghold

The Pakistani army said it killed 80 militants and captured a key Taliban stronghold during intense fighting that is part of the ongoing offensive to eject militants from in and around the Swat Valley.

Pakistani army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said the militants were killed as the army captured Sultanwas, the main town in Buner district, which is located about 100 kilometers from the capital, Islamabad.

General Abbas said the militants had bunkered themselves inside the town, turning it into a military headquarters. He underscored the meaning of the army's victory during a news briefing on Wednesday.

"Sultanwas was the main stronghold of terrorist miscreants, where they have made concrete bunkers in and around the houses and also underground," he said.

Sultanwas was the first town that Taliban militants had captured after entering the Buner district, which is just south of the Swat Valley.

General Abbas said security forces encountered stiff resistance from Taliban fighters during the overnight battle. He said one Pakistani soldier died and nine others were wounded during what he described as intense clashes.

The military began its latest offensive against Pakistani Taliban militants in and around the Swat Valley earlier this month, putting an end to a peace deal negotiated between Islamic cleric Sufi Mohammed and the local government in North West Frontier Province.

General Abbas said Wednesday that security forces are continuing the fight in Matta and Kanju and are advancing towards Mingora, the main city in Swat Valley.

The campaign has created a massive humanitarian crisis, displacing an estimated two million people in the region. The government has set up camps and appealed for international assistance. Tuesday, the United States announced a $110 million aid package to assist civilians affected by the fighting.

In addition to setting up new camps and delivering more aid, the Islamabad government says it will give a one-time cash grant of $300 dollars to every family affected by the fighting.