Islamabad : A fierce gunbattle erupted Friday between security forces and pro-Taliban militants near the stronghold of a radical cleric in the Swat region of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province.
The federal government has deployed thousands of troops in the Swat valley to counter the activities of Maulana Fazlullah and his Shaheen Commando Force, which has challenges the writ of the local administration in 59 villages and is running a parallel government.
The fighting started as troops were advancing towards the cleric’s madrassa at Imamdheri, Dawn News channel quoted local officials as saying.
Militants in the area fired rockets at the troops, who retaliated. This sparked a fierce gun battle about 500 metres from the madrassa at about noon.
The madrassa at Imamdheri is the headquarters Fazlullah, who is known as “FM Maulana” for his sermons broadcast from an illegal FM radio station.
On Thursday, 22 people were killed and over 30 injured when a suicide bomber blew up a truck carrying security personnel and ammunition at Mingora, a major city in Swat district.
Among the dead were 18 security personnel and civilians.