Click map for full view. Taliban presence, by district, in the Malakand Division region in Pakistan . Information on Taliban presence obtained from open source reporting and sources, and derived by The Long War Journal based on the presence of Taliban shadow governments, levels of fighting, and statements from ISAF commanders. Map created by Bill Raymond for The Long War Journal.
The Pakistani government is preparing to launch a military offensive in Swat as security forces suffered heavy casualties during the past two days of fighting.
The military is being dispatched to “eliminate” the Taliban after the Taliban violated the peace agreement, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said during an address on Pakistani television.
The government has “decided not to bow [their] heads in front of terrorists The army has been called in to eliminate the militants,” Dawn reported.
The government “implemented the Swat peace accord because of the people [and] implemented the Nizam-e-Adl [Islamic law regulation] despite both domestic and international pressure,” Gilani said. But the pro-Taliban group that negotiated with the government “did not abide by the peace agreement and continued with violence. The militants have waged war against all segments of society.”
It is unclear if the government will announce the end of the Malakand Accord. The Taliban declared the agreement dead days ago.
Fighting in Swat has been heavy over the past two days. The military claimed 55 Taliban fighters and six civilians were killed today as Pakistani Air Force fighters and Army helicopters pounded Taliban positions. The military claimed it killed Taliban commander Ibn Aaqil, who is the brother of Ibn Amin, the leader of a brigade of al Qaeda’s paramilitary Shadow Army that is operating in Swat and now Buner. The Taliban has more than 7,000 fighters active in Swat.
Nine Pakistani troops have been killed during fighting in Swat and 15 more have gone missing in the neighboring district of Dir, where an operation to dislodge the Taliban is in its 13th day. Twelve of the missing troops are reported to have been executed by the Taliban. Five more soldiers were killed in the Malakand district.
The Taliban killed seven of the soldiers after ambushing a military convoy as it attempted to enter Mingora, the main town in Swat. “The troop carrier was coming and there were seven soldiers killed in that,” military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told Dawn. “Two soldiers were killed somewhere in the valley north of Matta.” Abbas said.
It is unclear if the soldiers were killed by gunfire or in a roadside bomb attack. Abbas also did not state if the soldiers were part of the regular Army or the paramilitary Frontier Corps. The Pakistani military says it has more than 15,000 troops in Swat. But the soldiers have largely been confined to barracks.
Nine soldiers were killed during fighting in Swat yesterday. Most were killed in roadside bomb attacks in regions throughout Swat. The Taliban reportedly assaulted an artillery base and a camp at an airfield, but there is no word of casualties on either side. The Taliban also attacked police stations throughout the district.
The military responded by pounding Taliban positions at an emerald mine that was taken over several months ago and served as a source of funding for Taliban operations. The military claimed 35 Taliban fighters were killed at the mine and 20 others were killed in clashes throughout the district.
The Taliban took control of Mingora and have occupied government offices and the electrical grid station. Forty-six security personnel were reported to have been surrounded at the grid station, but there is no word of their fate.
Reinforcements are being sent to Swat, but the number and composition of the forces are unknown. Convoys of regular Army soldiers have been seen moving through the Malakand district south of Swat. The Taliban killed five soldiers in Malakand in a roadside bomb attack on a military convoy. Reinforcements are also moving through Shangla, Dawn reported.
Missing soldiers feared executed
In neighboring Dir, the military is in its 13th day of fighting, despite declaring the district secured just one day after the operation began.
Pakistani troops killed Kifyatullah, the son of Sufi Mohammad, during an artillery bombardment in Madain. “I have been informed by the family of Maulana Sufi Mohammad that his son, Kifayatullah, has died and his brother-in-law is seriously injured,” said Amir Izzat Khan, the spokesman for Sufi and the radical, banned pro-Taliban Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammed [TNSM or the Movement for the Enforcement of Mohammed’s Law]. Sufi is supposed to be the intermediary in negotiations between the government and the Taliban but has openly sided with the Swat Taliban, led by his son-in-law Mullah Fazlullah.
The Taliban also captured 15 Pakistani troops during a battle in the town of Gumbar in Dir. A Taliban commander named Mifthahuddin told Dawn that 12 of the soldiers were murdered and then left in the town’s bazaar.
The incident in Gumbar is the second of its type in Dir this month. On May 1, a Taliban force overran a Levies outpost in the town of Dir and took 10 officials captive, including a senior officer. The Levies personnel were later released.
The Taliban hold nearly 100 security personnel taken captive during recent fighting in Swat, Dir, and Buner. On April 29, 70 police and Frontier Constabulary officers were captured after the Taliban besieged a police station in Buner. Ten officers have since been released. Twenty-one security personnel have been taken captive in Swat since late April.
Background on the Malakand Accord and fighting in Swat
The government signed the Malakand Accord with Taliban front man Sufi Mohammed, Fazlullah’s father-in-law, on Feb. 16 after two years of fighting that put the Taliban in control of the district. During those two years, the military was defeated three separate times while attempting the wrest control from the Taliban. Each defeat put the Taliban in greater control of the district.
The peace agreement called for the end of military operations in Swat, the end of Taliban operations, and the imposition of sharia, or Islamic law, in the districts of Malakand, Swat, Shangla, Buner, Dir, Chitral, and Kohistan, a region that encompasses nearly one-third of the Northwest Frontier Province.
But the Taliban violated the agreement immediately after signing it, and proceeded to attack security forces and conduct armed patrols. The military remained silent while the government approved the Taliban’s demand for sharia throughout Malakand.
The government ordered a military offensive in Dir and Buner after enormous pressure from the US and other Western governments to stem the Taliban tide pushing toward central Pakistan. The Taliban advanced from Swat into Buner in early April and took over the district in eight days. The move into Buner has put the Taliban within 60 miles of Islamabad and close to several nuclear facilities and the vital Tarbela Dam. The Taliban also have moved into Mansehra and established bases and a training camp in the region.
Pakistani government and military officials have dismissed the Taliban threat to Islamabad and the country’s nuclear facilities, but at the end of April, the local Islamabad government ordered troops to deploy in the Margala hills just north of the city to block a Taliban advance, while the Haripur government beefed up security at the Tarbela Dam.
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