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Pakistani Troops, Pro-Taliban Militants Clash in Swat Valley

  • VOA News

Authorities in Pakistan say government troops backed by helicopters have clashed with supporters of a militant cleric in the country's North West Frontier Province.

At least three people were killed in the fighting. Police say militants beheaded five people accused of spying for the government and at least two officers and two soldiers were abducted.

Friday's fighting in Swat Valley began when a helicopter carrying a senior military official tried to land near the village of Imamdheri.

Officials say the militants are allied with the pro-Taliban religious leader Maulana Fazlullah. In recent days, he has tried to set up a parallel government and impose strict Islamic law.

In an interview with VOA's Deewa Radio, North West Province Chief Minister Shamsul Mulk said the Pakistani government will not negotiate with the militants on their terms. Mulk says the ongoing military action in Swat valley is not an offensive operation, but rather an effort to restore order in the area.

On Thursday, at least 30 people, mostly soldiers, were killed in a roadside bomb blast that targeted a military truck near the region's main town (Mingora).

Tensions in the Swat valley have been high since the Pakistani military deployed more than two thousand troops in the region this week to combat a rise in violence by pro-Taliban militants.

The valley in the conservative North West Frontier Province is a stronghold of Fazlullah's group, Tehrik Nifaz-e-Sharia Mohammed, which has close ties to Afghanistan's Taliban militants.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf banned the group in 2002.
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