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At Least 13 Civilians Killed in Northwestern Pakistan Violence


Pakistani authorities say at least 13 civilians were killed Thursday in fresh fighting between troops and militants in northwestern Pakistan's Swat valley.

Residents say many of the victims were killed when mortars struck their homes. Seven members of one family, including five children, are among the dead.

It is not clear who fired the shells.

In other violence, officials say militants torched two girls' school early Thursday. Further details are not immediately available.

Fighting between government troops and Taliban militants erupted in Swat after militants kidnapped 25 security personnel and attacked a checkpoint this week.

Reports say 40 militants and five soldiers have been killed in the ensuing clashes.

The fighting occurred despite a peace deal between the local government and militants signed in May.

The army said security forces have been ordered to take appropriate measures to counter increased hostile activities by militants.

The May peace deal allowed for the implementation of Islamic law in Swat in exchange for the removal of military forces. But shortly after the deal was signed, militants resumed their attacks, burning schools and businesses and blowing up a popular ski resort.

Last week, Taliban militants said the government had broken the peace deal and they demanded that the troops leave. But the province's information minister said Wednesday that there are no plans to meet militant demands for the army to pull out.