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One soldier, eight militants killed in Pakistan


Islamabad : At least one soldier and eight militants were killed in clashes in Pakistan’s northwestern region, the army said Saturday.

Troops engaged the rebels near Banjot in the Swat district, resulting in “five terrorists and one soldier” killed, an army statement said. Another soldier was wounded in combat and 30 militants were captured from various areas, it added.

Thousands of military and paramilitary troops launched a full offensive in late April to neutralise a Taliban threat in Swat and three adjoining districts.

The latest clashes came a day after the army announced the capture of Swat Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan and four other senior rebel leaders during operations. However, the rebels Taliban rejected the claim, and said the group was tricked into peace talks and arrested in Islamabad.

The Taliban chief in Swat, Maulana Fazlullah, in an interview published Saturday acknowledged that his forces had suffered heavy losses during the offensive, but warned of a comeback.

“The Taliban movement is presently in a state of illness. When you are ill, your activities are curtailed. That is what has happened to Taliban organisation, but it would bounce back,” local daily The News quoted Fazlullah saying in a recorded message.

The Taliban leader, who made his name as firebrand radio preacher through his illegal FM radio station, also announced that his men had decided “once and for all” not to hold any negotiations with the Pakistani rulers.

The government says at least 2,000 militants and 200 soldiers have been killed in Swat. The violence also displaced more than two million people, but most of the civilians have now returned to their homes.

Elsewhere, army troops acting on a tip in the Chinar area of the Bajaur tribal district killed “three terrorists” of Afghan origin.

The district borders Afghanistan and is a safe haven for Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters who launch cross border attacks on US forces in Afghanistan.