Pakistan army pounds fighters

Helicopters back army and police in offensive against supporters of hardline cleric.

    About 2,500 paramilitary soldiers are in Swat valley in an operation against pro-Taliban fighters [AFP]
    Ten opposition fighters were killed on Sunday in the Manglore and Kot areas of Swat on Sunday, the military's public relations department said in a statement.
     
    So far at least 25 people have been killed in the latest round of clashes, including 13 civilians and security officers beheaded by pro-Taliban fighters.
     
    A spokesman for Fazlullah has denied that supporters of the religious leader had any involvement in the beheadings.
     
    Civilians flee
     
    The helicopters are backing troops and police in an attempt to flush out Fazlullah's supporters.
     
    Al Jazeera exclusive

    Sohail Rahman reports
    from Swat valley

    Hundreds of civilians are meanwhile reported to have fled the NWFP to escape the violence.
     
    Sohail Rahman, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Swat valley, said the military had set up outposts across the region and imposed a cordon around major roads in the valley to prevent Fazlullah's supporters from escaping.
     
    Security forces have entered Manglor village, 10km northeast of Mingora, the main town in Swat, forcing opposition fighters to leave their hideouts, Waheed said.
     
    "They are operating to establish the writ of the government in areas where miscreants have threatened public peace and order. The security forces have extended their positions," he said.
     
    However, fighters captured a police post on Saturday in Charbagh village, a police official said on condition of anonymity.
     
    The officer said about a dozen policemen abandoned it after coming under heavy attack from the fighters.
     
    Violence first erupted in Swat in July, when fighters attacked the army after government troops stormed the Lal Masjid (Red mosque) in Islamabad, Pakistan's capital.
     
    The Swat valley has in the past two years become a stronghold of Fazlullah's banned group, Tahreek Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi (TNSM).
     
    Security officials say the group is linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.
     
    About 2,500 paramilitary troops are in Swat to fight supporters of Fazlullah, who has called for a war against the government.
     
    Video appeal
     
    In a video recorded a month ago but seen for the first time on Sunday, a pro-Taliban leader in the Pakistan-Afghan border region has issued a call for fighters to strengthen their operations.
     

    Yuldash called for supporters to increase
    attacks in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan

    Tahir Yuldash, who is Uzbek, said the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is under the leadership of Amir ul-Mominineen Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Taliban's founder.
     
    "The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is under the leadership of Amir ul-Mominineen Mullah Mohammad Omar. We follow Shariah law and we want Islam and the Quran to be practiced all over the world," he said in comments from the video.
     
    "God willing, the mujahedeen will continue their holy war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, especially after the incident in Lal Masjid, the Red Mosque in Islamabad.
     
    "Muslims in Pakistan are awake now, and together Uzbeks and Pakistanis will avenge those people killed there, especially our sisters and mothers and all other Muslims who were killed in Lal Masjid."
     
    Tahir Yuldash is wanted by the US military in Afghanistan, where they are offering $200,000 for information leading to his capture.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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