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Central & South Asia
Dozens killed in Pakistan army raid
Civilians flee their homes as army maintains push against opposition fighters.
Last Modified: 04 Feb 2009 08:09 GMT
Security along the Khyber Pass has taken a
battering in recent months [AFP]

At least 35 opposition fighters have been killed in a fresh raid by the Pakistani military in the Swat valley, the army has said in a statement.

The military operation on several hideouts took place in the Khawazakhela district overnight, according to the statement released on Tuesday.

The Pakistani military has in recent months been battling fighters loyal to Maulana Fazlullah, a religious leader considered to be close to the Taliban.

More than 20,000 people across the Swat valley are believed to have fled their homes to escape the fighting.

Targeted attacks

Wajid Ali Khan, a provincial minister, has said "the fighting in the valley has made it almost impossible for civilians to stay there".

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Government forces and other state employees are bearing the brunt of many attacks by Fazlullah loyalists, Kamal Hyder, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Pakistan, said.

The decapitated bodies of policemen - complete with notes warning the authorities of further such attacks - have become a common sight on streets in Swat, Hyder said.

The raids came after Yusuf Reza Giliani, the Pakistani prime minister, pledged to restore peace to the Swat valley.

"We are finding a way out. We do not want to disclose the strategy right now, but soon Swat will be peaceful, like the rest of the country," Gilani said on Monday.

Bridge destroyed

Hours after the latest raids in Swat valley, suspected Taliban-linked fighters blew up a bridge in Pakistan's Khyber Pass, severing the main route for supplies to Western troops in Afghanistan, Pakistan government officials said.

The 30-metre iron bridge, which lies about 23km from the northwestern city of Peshawar, was destroyed shortly after midnight, Rahat Gul, a government official, said.

In depth


 Swat: Pakistan's lost paradise
 Video: Taliban sway over Swat

"Militants blew up the bridge and it's going to take some time to fix it," he said on Tuesday.

There has been an increase over the last year in attacks on the Khyber Pass road, with most of them aimed at preventing international forces fighting the Taliban of receiving supplies.

The road through Pakistan's mountainous border territory into Afghanistan has been briefly closed twice since September due to attacks.

The US military and Nato's force in Afghanistan have tried to find alternative supply routes in the face of the attacks on the Khyber Pass.

About 75 per cent of supplies to the US military in Afghanistan come through or over Pakistan, including 40 per cent of the fuel for its troops.

The attacks on the Khyber Pass come as the US military prepares to send about 60,000 extra soldiers to Afghanistan in the next few months.

General David Petraeus, the head of the US Central Command, said last month that agreements had been reached for new routes into northern Afghanistan through Central Asian states and Russia.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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