Taliban hit in Swat Valley Pakistan with helicopters, warplanes
Taliban fighters were hit in Swat Valley today by Pakistani helicopter gunships and warplanes, but civilians in the area were not allowed to flee due to the curfew.
The fighting has continued in this area, this northwestern valley, about 130 km from Islamabad, and is part of Pakistan's resolve to fight the insurgency. The Pakistani military are claiming that 55 militants were killed in the fighting and four soldiers wounded, but the figures cannot be confirmed.
The army went on an attack after the government ordered troops to push the militant fighters out of the once popular tourist destination. Thousands of civilians fled the area earlier in the week from the fighting, but many are still trapped in the region.
"We are feeling so helpless, we want to go but can't as there is a curfew," said Sallahudin Khan by telephone from Mingora, Swat's main town.
"We tried to leave yesterday after authorities relaxed the curfew for a few hours, but couldn't as the main road leading out of Mingora was literally jammed with the flood of fleeing people," he said as gunship fire boomed in the background.
Both helicopters and warplanes hit the area, such as hideouts in Mingora, and militants fired rockets back at the army base.
The curfew is set to remain in place for the whole day.
The UN refugee council has said that a massive displacement is underway, as over 200,000 people have left their homes in the last few days and about 300,000 are still left to move. 555,000 people have already been displaced from other areas because of fighting. Tens of thousands of those people are in camps.
There has been some looting and fighting at the camps, due to limited supplies, and the government is looking for international help to deal with supplies.
Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said:
"This is not a normal war. This is a guerrilla war. But it is our resolve, it is the resolve of the army that there should be minimum collateral damage," he told a news conference.
Currently, about 15,000 troops are fighting against 4,000 to 5,000 militants in Swat Valley.
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