PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) – Pakistani troops killed over 50 militants during two days of clashes with fighters who fled an offensive aimed at crushing the Taliban in northwest districts, officials said Tuesday.
A two-day operation on Sunday and Monday targeted militants hiding in the village of Maidan in Lower Dir — one of three districts where commanders have said that a massive assault effectively defeated Taliban opposition.
“The aim of the operation was to eliminate the militants, who were hiding in Maidan after fleeing the Swat operation,” a spokesman for the paramilitary Frontier Corps, Major Fazal-ul-Rehman, told AFP.
Three soldiers were also killed and troops destroyed a large quantity of arms and ammunition, he said.
Although Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said earlier this month that the military had “eliminated” extremists, deadly skirmishes have continued in and around the Swat valley, where the Taliban focused a two-year rebellion.
The army launched an offensive under US pressure in late April in Buner and Lower Dir, before besieging militants in Swat, whose mountains and green valleys were a favoured tourist destination before the Taliban uprising.
Pakistan says around 1,800 militants and around 163 security personnel have been killed, but the death tolls are impossible to verify independently.
Fighting has forced 1.9 million people to flee homes in the northwest since last year, although the government last week started busing back families to Swat and Buner.