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Page last updated at 12:00 GMT, Thursday, 29 April 2010 13:00 UK

Pakistan Taliban militants 'reappear' in Swat valley

By Syed Shoaib Hasan
BBC News, Swat valley

Troops on patrol in the village of Kabal, Swat Valley (file pic: 11 December 2009)
Fear and uncertainty have returned to the Swat valley

Taliban militants have resumed targeted killings of local leaders in Pakistan's troubled Swat valley, officials have told the BBC.

Pakistan's army declared the Swat valley free of militants after carrying out an anti-Taliban operation in 2009.

A Pakistani army spokesman said three people had died in attacks over the last 10 days. Local journalists say that seven have died in 15 days.

The militants were effectively in control of the region from 2007.

In 2009, they started to expand their power across North West Frontier Province, prompting the army to launch its offensive.

Differing accounts

"There have been three incidents of targeted killings," Col Akhtar Abbas, head of the army public relations in Swat, told the BBC.

A Pakistani army position in the Swat valley

"But these incidents do not mean that the Taliban can return in any organised form to the Swat valley. The army is confident of this."

Some of those killed are members of a local peace committee, which is supported by the military.

Col Abbas said that the militants involved in the attacks "have been dealt with".

"We carried out an operation after a tip-off and killed the four of them," he said.

However, there are differing accounts of the incidents.

When the BBC visited the site of one encounter, several local people said at least one militant had escaped after a prolonged gun battle.

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They say that fears remain about the level of security provided by the army.

"Things have not improved and business is not good," said a local restaurant owner known as Mr Khalid.

"We cannot even imagine that tourists will come here.

"How can things be better if there are still suicide bombings and people are being killed every few days?"

But despite these concerns, conditions have improved considerably in Swat since the military operation ended in July 2009.

Hotels and businesses are slowly starting to re-open.

But fear and uncertainty - heightened by the recent killings - still prevail.



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