The Pakistani military claimed Friday to have broken the backs of Taliban militants in the Swat region.
The military made the claim while escorting journalists into the country’s volatile war zone. But fighting continues in the Peochar Valley, an area that intersects with Swat, the main location of the army’s offensive against Taliban militants advancing across North West Frontier Province. This is the scenario gleaned by journalists Friday during a tour of the battle front with the Pakistani military. Journalists flew by helicopter with the Pakistani military to Khwazakhela, an area north of the large Swat city of Mingora, and got a glimpse of the battle zone. The military showed journalists a system of bunkers and caves captured from Taliban militants earlier this week.
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The most striking thing about the scene was that roads were deserted in the Swat Valley. There is a strict curfew enforced. There are terraced farm fields, but there were no farmers seen harvesting the crops. A fire could be seen burning in Mingora from the helicopter. Fighting has displaced more than 2 million people in North West Frontier Province, 1.7 million since May 2 and 555,000 from earlier fighting. The scale and speed of this month’s population flight is said to be the worst since the Rwandan genocide in 1994, according to the United Nations refugee agency. The U.N. started a drive Friday to raise $543 million to help the displaced in the region. The Pakistani military said Friday that 17 militants and three security force members have been killed in fighting over the last 24 hours. It said security forces were consolidating their positions in the Peochar Valley and in Shangla and Swat. It reported exchanges of fire in Takhtaband and the Dir and Buner areas.