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Taliban strikes a blow to Pak army in Swat valley

Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad | February 04, 2009 17:12 IST

Taliban [Images] militants on Wednesday abducted 30 Pakistani security personnel in Swat Valley after a night-long siege in a major blow to the army, which has launched an operation to regain the control of the area.

The bold abduction was carried out when the army and paramilitary forces had suspended operations to break the siege to rescue the trapped personnel, local police officials and TV channels reported.

Taliban militants have overrun most of the Swat Valley, called the Switzerland [Images] of Pakistan and once the haunt of tourists and rich and this has triggered a massive exodus of residents.

About 45,000 people have reportedly fled from Charbagh and adjoining areas. Many of the displaced people have taken refuge in camps set up by authorities.

The outflow of locals has come about as the militants are enforcing their own brand of strict Sharia law, banning girls going to school, making sporting a beard a must, and now targetting lawyers.

Taliban had on Tuesday warned lawyers and judges in Swat that they would be killed if they did not quit their profession, which is part of an "infidel judicial system".

Thousands Taliban militia men laid seige to two police stations in Shamzoi area on Tuesday. The army was called in to break the cordon and rescue the policemen.

Clashes continued throughout the day, but as night fell the operation was suspended giving the chance to Taliban to whisk away 30 security personnel, which included six policemen and 24 paramilitary Frontier Corps personnel, Dawn News channel reported.

The militants destroyed the police station after taking away the security personnel as hostages from the building.

Over 70 militants have died in fierce clashes with the security forces in Swat since Monday night. The militants had on Tuesday carried out at least two attacks on police positions but were beaten back.

However, the Dawn newspaper quoted sources as saying that security personnel were running out of ammunition and had sought reinforcements. The report said it was "feared that the troops may be forced to surrender if help did not reach them in time".

Swat Valley descended into a chaos in 2007 when Taliban militants led by Maulana Fazlullah started taking over parts of the region and enforcing the Taliban style law.

Pakistan is now under increasing pressure to clamp down on radical elements and has stepped up efforts to regain the area.

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