Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pakistan Bid to Stop Taleban Push into Punjab Region

Via BBC -

The Pakistan government has sent troops to tackle Taleban militants who have advanced into a region just 100km (67 miles) from the capital, Islamabad.

Officials say the forces will protect government buildings in Buner district, where insurgents have begun patrolling the streets and mounting checkpoints.

As the troops moved into the region, insurgents launched an attack on their convoy, killing at least one soldier.

Meanwhile nine people have been killed in the Khyber region, officials say.

Local tribesmen told the BBC that they were killed by bombs dropped by the Pakistani air force, which was targeting militants in the neighbouring region of Orakzai.

The militants advanced towards Buner from the Swat Valley, a region they largely control.

The BBC's Mark Dummett in Islamabad says if the government is trying to reassert control over the region, its efforts appear to be too little, too late.

The Taleban are reported to have moved several hundred men into Buner from the Swat Valley.

The government sent six platoons - up to 300 men - to deal with the insurgents.


The confrontation in Buner comes just weeks after a peace deal was signed by President Asif Ali Zardari allowing the introduction of Islamic law in Swat.

The deal was designed to end a bloody 18-month conflict with the Taleban in Swat by yielding to some of their demands.

But critics say that the militants can now use Swat as a springboard to take over new areas of the country.

The BBC's Ilyas Khan says many people believe Buner could be the next battlefield for the Pakistani security forces after Swat.

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