Islamabad, May 24: The military said the street fighting erupted in the main town of Pakistan's Swat valley when security forces mounted a new phase of their offensive against Taliban militants on Saturday, May 23.
Major General Athar Abbas, military spokesman said to a news conference,"Street fighting has begun in Mingora." He also said the government forces has cleared parts of the town but fierce clashes are underway in the centre of Mingora, and 17 militants had been killed on Saturday, May 23.
There would be a slow down in the operation as security forces wanted to avoid civilian casualties although most residents had moved out and only five to 10 per cent were still in the town. Athar Abbas feared militants could use civilians as 'human shields' and said "The pace of the operation will be painfully slow. So be patient but the operation has started and Inshallah (God willing) we are going to take it to a logical conclusion."
More than 1,000 militants and more than 50 soldiers have been killed in the fighting. Abbas said that around 1,500 to 2,000 'hardcore' militants were believed to be involved in fighting in Swat as large number of criminals who had joined the Taliban had fled the region.
Nearly 1.7 million people have been displaced by the Swat offensive while about 555,000 people had been forced from their homes by earlier fighting in the region.