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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 October 2007, 16:06 GMT
Pakistan militants firm on Sharia
By Syed Shoaib Hasan
BBC News, Mingora

Militants in Swat

Pro-Taleban militants in Pakistan's troubled northern district of Swat have told the BBC they will continue fighting until Islamic law is enforced.

Located near the country's restive tribal area along the Afghan border, Swat has been the scene of recent clashes with the security forces.

The army last week sent reinforcements to the area.

The authorities say there are fears that the Swat valley is becoming a haven for al-Qaeda and the Taleban.

Clashes

An uneasy calm prevails over Mingora, the main town in the Swat valley.

Ringed by mountains, the scenic tourist destination is bustling with traffic and activity.

Local residents donate money for Maulana Fazlullah
Support for Maulana Fazlullah is strong

But there is also fear, and intermittent clashes still take place in areas across the valley.

A police station was attacked with rockets on Tuesday night, while helicopter gun ships carried out retaliatory strikes on Wednesday morning.

The army says at least 18 militants died in the strikes, but there is no way of independently confirming the claim.

In Mingora's main market there is popular support for demands made by militants that Islamic - or Sharia - law should be enforced.

But, most of all, local people expressed the desire that both sides resolve the issue peacefully through dialogue.

Heavily-armed militants

Dozens have been killed in clashes and suicide attacks in recent days, including militants, members of the security forces and civilians.

Policeman in Mingora
Police in Mingora stay behind barricades

Last week the government launched an operation in the area against a powerful local pro-Taleban cleric, Maulana Fazlullah, who uses an FM radio station to broadcast calls for jihad, or holy war.

Observers say that the militants still control much of the valley, but local police officials deny this and say that any who still remain will be caught.

But the claims of the authorities do not match the evidence on the ground.

A militant check post was visible near the police station, with several heavily armed militants manning it.

They moved freely around the area, unlike the police who had barricaded themselves inside.

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