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Pakistani Army Claims Success in Battles Against Swat Valley Militants 


Pakistan's army says troops killed 20 militants Thursday, in the northwestern Swat Valley as security forces stepped up a campaign to drive Islamic rebels out of the scenic ski resort area.

The battles came a day after the army said that 33 fighters were killed after helicopter gunships pounded insurgent hideouts.

Local media reports said at least 60 people, including several civilians, were killed during the military operations. But an army spokesman said he had no information about civilian deaths.

Unrest erupted in the Swat Valley last month when pro-Taliban cleric, Maulana Fazlulla, declared a holy war against the government, spreading his message through a pirate FM radio station.

Over the past two weeks, militant fighters seized control of several towns and police stations without much resistance from the army.

Nearly 250 people have been killed during the unrest.

President Pervez Musharraf justified imposing emergency rule - in part - to crack down on rising militant attacks.

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