ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Pakistan has deployed more than 2,000 troops to a troubled northwestern district to bolster efforts to stem rising violence linked to pro-Taliban militants, a senior official said Wednesday.
Paramilitary troops erected barricades and checkposts in the scenic Swat valley, where a pro-Taliban militant group has been blamed for a series of recent bloody attacks on police and government leaders, the official said.
“We have deployed a little over 2,000 troops to assist police and civil administration in the district,” top military spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad told AFP.
The district in the conservative North West Frontier Province bordering Afghanistan has become a stronghold of banned radical group Tahreek Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi (TNSM), which has close ties to Taliban militants.
Arshad said the deployment was to tackle threats to law and order by TNSM gangs operating in the area.
“It is not a military operation and the exercise is aimed at improving the law and order situation,” he said.
Four paramilitary soldiers were injured late Tuesday when a roadside bomb planted by militants ripped through their convoy at Chakdara town in Swat, Arshad said.
TNSM was banned by President Pervez Musharraf in 2002 after it sent more than 10,000 volunteers to fight in Afghanistan against US forces who led an invasion to oust the country’s hardline Taliban regime.
Hundreds of Taliban militants have since fled over the border into Pakistan’s nearby tribal areas where they are said to be regrouping.
Around 90,000 Pakistani troops are deployed in the lawless tribal zones where they have been waging battle against Al-Qaeda and Taliban-linked extremists.