Mon, Oct 29, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Militants, Pakistani troops trade fire

NORTHWESTERN STANDOFF A raid on the stronghold of a pro-Taliban cleric on Friday has led to two days of sporadic clashes between militants and security forces


Militants exchanged gunfire with security forces as troops set up sandbagged bunkers in an area of northwestern Pakistan where supporters of a pro-Taliban cleric have taken up arms against the government, police said yesterday.

Militants have clashed with security forces in the Swat district since Friday, when the military raided the stronghold of the pro-Taliban cleric, Maulana Fazlullah.

Fifteen people have been killed in the violence, including six security personnel and seven civilians who were beheaded by militants, officials said.

The fighting yesterday between militants and security forces occurred in Manglore, a village near Mingora, the main town in Swat, a police official said on condition of anonymity because he was unauthorized to speak to the media. No one was hurt in the brief firefight, he said

Militants captured the police post in Charbagh village near Mingora, the main town in Swat district, late Saturday after nearly a dozen policemen deployed there abandoned it after coming under a heavy attack, a senior police official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make media comments.

Police and paramilitary troops meanwhile set up security posts and sandbagged bunkers in Kabal, a small town near Mingora dominated by supporters of Fazlullah, the official said.

The main bazaar in Kabal was closed, the town was tense and residents were told not to venture out of their homes, he said. Militants and security forces exchanged gunfire in Kabal late Saturday, but there were no reports of any injuries.

In the nearby village of Tiligram, militants blew up an unmanned police post with dynamite. The explosion was near a Buddha statue, but it was not known if the relic suffered any damage, one of the police officials said.

Authorities have sent 2,500 paramilitary troops to Swat to fight supporters of Fazlullah, who has launched a Taliban-style Islamization campaign in the district, and has called for a jihad against the government.

Fazlullah is the leader of the banned pro-Taliban group Tehrik Nifaz-e-Sharia Mohammedi, or Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Law.

In Malakand, a rugged area bordering Swat, authorities dropped pamphlets from airplanes yesterday, urging residents to help "the government in purging [Malakand] of terrorists," the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan news agency said.

Separately, three rockets hit the provincial capital of Peshawar before dawn yesterday, one striking a politician's house opposite the US consulate, but no one was hurt, police said.

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