- Afghanistan - Pakistan - Swat valley - Taliban - USA
Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has ordered soldiers leading the anti-Taliban offensive in the Swat valley to “eliminate the terrorists”. Authorities also imposed a long-term curfew on part of the territory to allow troops to deploy.
“To restore the honor and dignity of our nation, and to protect our people, armed forces are called on to eliminate the militants and terrorists,” the prime minister stated in a televised speech on Thursday.
His address came a day after President Asif Ali Zardari met in Washington with President Barack Obama of the United States and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan for talks on the conflict-ridden region.
The Pakistani military began a third day of day of operations in the Swat valley on Friday amid growing fears of a humanitarian crisis in the region.
The offensive against Taliban forces in Swat seems to be gaining steam.
Pakistani aircraft bombed Taliban positions in Swat on Friday. Helicopter gunships, fighters and troops were all involved in operations in Swat, and up to 12 militants were killed after as many as 55 were killed on Thursday, Major Nasir Khan, a military spokesman in Swat, said in a telephone interview with Reuters. Taliban fighters, however, continued targeting local police forces, besieging a police station in Matta, in southern Swat.
Civilians were also hit hard by the conflict: 35 people have been reported killed in the crossfire. The army has not confirmed civilian losses but recognized there had been “collateral damage” to the fighting.
Swat valley residents continued to flee the region on Thursday, making the most of the temporary lifting of the 6 pm curfew.
NGOs now fear a wide scale humanitarian crisis. The International Committee of the Red Cross indicated in a press release that it is getting ready to supply up to 120,000 displaced persons with food and first aid.