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Pakistani Military Supports Citizen Uprising Against Taliban 


The Pakistani military has sent helicopter gunships to the country's northwest in support of more than one thousand civilians who have banded together to fight the Taliban.

Pakistani officials said Tuesday that the army helicopters attacked militants in a village surrounded by local tribesmen.

Authorities in Upper Dir district said at least 1,200 villagers have joined a citizens' militia that has killed militants and set fire to their homes.

Militia members also pushed the Taliban out of at least three villages and surrounded two other villages known as Taliban strongholds.

The region is near the Swat Valley, where the Pakistani military has been battling Taliban fighters for more than a month.

The militia members are seeking to avenge a suicide bombing at a local mosque that killed at least 38 people.

No one has claimed responsibility for that attack by a lone suicide bomber, but some officials suspect militants were taking revenge for the government offensive.

Separately, the Pakistani military said Tuesday that it had killed 27 militants and taken into custody 22 others across the region, including Swat valley, in the past 24 hours. One soldier was killed and nine others wounded.

Pakistan says more than 1,300 militants and about 100 soldiers have been killed during the offensive in the past several weeks.

On Tuesday, the International Committee of the Red Cross said some 40,000 civilians remain in the Swat region without adequate access to electricity and water. More than two million civilians have been displaced in the violence.

Meanwhile, Pakistani authorities have imposed a curfew in the northwestern town of Bannu after local tribesmen failed to hand over Taliban militants suspected in recent kidnappings.

Last week, Taliban militants operating in the area kidnapped a group of students and teachers. Officials said the 46 students and two teachers were released after negotiations by tribal elders.

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