At least 26 suspected militants were killed and two security personnel injured in fresh fighting in the Orakzai tribal region on Friday.
Taliban insurgents clashed with paramilitary troops in the Dray Chautai area in the north of Orakzai Agency. In the ensuing gunfight 16 militants were killed and scores wounded. Two paramilitary soldiers were also injured in the gunbattle. Warplanes also bombed suspected bases of Taliban fighters in Dabori and other areas of Orakzai, with security officials claiming that at least 10 militants were killed in the air raid. Two safe houses of militants were also reportedly destroyed in the blitz.
Paramilitary troops have stepped up a ground and air offensive against Taliban militants in Orakzai over the past few days, with officials claiming to have killed dozens of militants. However, the claim could not be verified independently as journalists are not allowed to travel to the region. Hundreds of paramilitary troops, backed by heavy artillery and air power, marched into Orakzai on March 24 following reports that Taliban insurgents fleeing a military operation in South Waziristan were regrouping in the region.
On the Swat front, security forces claimed on Friday that they have killed three key Taliban commanders in the Matta area. They were killed in a raid carried out on a tipoff. Security forces named the dead ‘commanders’ as Alam Sher, Muhammad Naeed and Khan Wali. Troops also dynamited the house of a suspected Taliban commander in the Shakardarra area. Separately, 28 families of suspected militants, who have refused to surrender to authorities, were expelled from Swat district. They have shifted to neighbouring Malakand Agency. The militants were given until Thursday to lay down their arms or else their families would be expelled, sources told The Express Tribune.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2010.