Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Swat is still Burning

MORE than 40,000 people this week fled the Swat valley in north-west Pakistan, as an onslaught against Taliban militants intensified. Pakistan’s army, which fought in Swat from 2007 until it struck peace in February, says it will now finish off the Taliban in the valley. The peace deal has been unraveling since the Taliban last month moved from Swat into the districts of Lower Dir and Buner, 100km (63 miles) from Islamabad, the capital. The army attacked them, after senior American officials voiced their alarm at its “abdication” to the Taliban. Under the peace agreement, covering Malakand division, which includes Swat, the government is to implement Islamic law in the district. The Taliban call the government and army American stooges. On May 3rd militants beheaded two government officials in Swat, in revenge for the killing of two Taliban commanders in Dir and Buner. The next day they ambushed an army convoy in Swat.
On May 6th Pakistani helicopter-gunships and ground troops attacked the Taliban in the valley.
Officials claim that by setting up sharia courts they have drawn local support away from the Taliban. The army claims to have killed over 30 militants in Swat and 100 in Buner. Militants have recruited young men, broadcast anti-government propaganda, dug trenches and laid mines throughout Mingora.
American officials had raised concerns about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, as well as its zeal for fighting the Taliban. Mr Obama called the talks “extraordinarily productive”

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