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Pakistani PM: Swat Almost Ready for Locals' Return

Pakistan says some two million people displaced by an army offensive in the Swat Valley region can start returning home next week, despite continuing violence.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Thursday most of the area is now secured and essential services restored, but that the army will remain in the valley to ensure the Taliban does not return.

However, local reports from the greater Swat Valley region say Taliban militants are still active in the area and continue to intimidate locals.

On Thursday, the military said troops are still discovering militant training camps and roadside bombs. An army statement said six soldiers were wounded in a bomb blast in Bannu district, and that troops arrested 12 suspected militants in the region.

The United Nations has been providing aid to many displaced people and is eager to see them return home. But U.N. officials say conditions must be safe and that any return must be voluntary.

Meanwhile, the military campaign against the Taliban is shifting from Swat to tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

On Thursday, officials in South Waziristan said fighter jets bombed targets in the Taliban-dominated region, killing 12 suspected militants.

South Waziristan is a longtime stronghold of Baitullah Mehsud, a fugitive Taliban commander and al-Qaida ally wanted by both Pakistan and the United States.

Mehsud is blamed for scores of attacks against government and civilian targets, and is believed to be a key facilitator for al-Qaida fighters in Pakistan.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.