Islamabad, Sept 4 (UNI) At least 30 militants were killed and 35 wounded in a ground assault backed by gunship helicopters in the militants-infested Koza Bandai area of volatile northwestern Swat Valley.
The military has stepped up operation in the valley despite the government's announcement of a ceasefire and killed several dozen militants in the last more than one week, while top military official vowed to continue the action till the elimination of militants from the Valley.
The valley was known as Switzerland of Pakistan until last year when military operation was mounted in the area to curb growing militancy in the region.
Since the jetfighters' participation in the operation, the number of casualties has been recording an upsurge, as 15 militants were killed on Tuesday.
The security forces launched a ground assault in Koza Bandai, the native village of the Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan, at dawn yesterday to clear the area of militants.
A Mingora-based army spokesman Maj Nasir Ali told newspersons that 25 to 30 militants, including hardcore terrorists, were killed and 30 to 35 were injured in the attack that was backed by gunship helicopters.
He claimed that the militants had been flushed out of the area but ''some pockets of resistance were still there,'' which, he added, ''would be mopped up in the next stage of the operation.'' Meanwhile, the News quoted Ali as saying that the militants had established themselves in the village and made the civilian population hostage.
The area, he added, was a stronghold of the miscreants, which served as a launching pad for their terrorist activities in and around the suburbs of Mingora, the district headquarters of Swat.
''From here they would launch their sabotage activities and destroy the houses of the people. They have destroyed the houses of local political leaders and subjected the locals to killings, torture and kidnapping, forcing them to request the forces to launch an operation against them in Koza Bandai,'' he said.
Hence, Ali added, the forces launched a massive ground operation, backed by gunship helicopters, at dawn yesterday and targeted their fortified positions and fortress-type houses.
''The people of the area cooperated with the security forces when asked through leaflets dropped from choppers and an announcement was made from megaphones to shift to Bara Bandai area before the operation to avoid civilian casualties,'' he said.
The spokesman for the Swat chapter of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Muslim Khan, while talking to The News from an undisclosed location said the forces destroyed 200 houses in Koza Bandai in yesterday's operation.
UNI XC SKB NS0915