Pakistani troops have retaken the largest town in the Swat Valley from the Taliban as the army presses its offensive against militants in the country's north-west, an army spokesman said today. Government forces had full control of Mingora, though they were still meeting pockets of resistance from fighters on the outskirts of the town, Maj Gen Athar Abbas told AP. The military launched a major offensive one month ago in the Swat Valley and neighbouring areas to oust Taliban militants who were extending their control over the northwestern region, near the border with Afghanistan.
The campaign is strongly backed by Washington and the government's other Western allies, who see it as a test of the government's resolve to fight extremism in the Pakistan. "As far as Mingora city, security forces have taken over," Mr Abbas said. "There are still pockets of resistance. They are on the periphery of Mingora city." Government troops have been advancing steadily into the Swat region, bombarding towns from the air and fighting house-to-house with Taliban gunmen.
The fighting has caused more than two million people to flee the region, raising fears of a humanitarian crisis. More than 160,000 people are taking refuge in sweltering refugee camps south of the battle zone, while the rest are staying with relatives or relying on goodwill from local residents. * AP