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Page last updated at 16:42 GMT, Tuesday, 23 September 2008 17:42 UK

Pakistan police kill protesters

Pakistani protesters burn tyres on a road after police fired at the protesters in Mingora, the main city in Swat on September 23, 2008.
Protests have been going on in Mingora since Monday

Pakistani police say they have shot dead at least six people during protests against military operations in the north-western area of Swat.

More than a dozen others were injured when police opened fire on hundreds of protesters in the city of Mingora.

Police say they fired to prevent banks being looted. Locals are angry at army shelling which they say killed five people in the area earlier this week.

Troops have been fighting a rising tide of militancy in Swat since last year.

Police opened fire at the crowd to prevent them looting banks
Swat police official Bahadur Khan

Elsewhere in the north-west the military says it has killed dozens of militants near the Afghan border.

US military officials say militants use safe havens in Pakistan to mount attacks in Afghanistan. Anger has been growing in Pakistan at US forces in Afghanistan violating Pakistani sovereignty.

On Tuesday, US President George Bush met his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari for the first time, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

President Bush made no public reference to the controversial issue of unauthorised US strikes at insurgent targets in north-west Pakistan.

'Looting banks'

At least two government-owned banks are reported to have been damaged in the violence in Mingora, Swat's main city.

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Police say a police station was also ransacked and other property attacked. Protesters burned tyres in the streets.

"Police opened fire at the crowd to prevent them looting banks," local police officer Bahadur Khan told the AFP news agency.

A curfew was imposed in the city to prevent a recurrence of demonstrations which broke out on Monday.

Locals took to the streets after the army shelled a house in the Chahar Bagh area of Swat earlier in the day. At least five people are reported to have died.

Correspondents say the security situation in Swat has been steadily deteriorating since the breakdown in the summer of a peace agreement between the government and pro-Taleban cleric Maulana Fazlullah.

The Swat valley, Pakistan's most famous tourist destination, has been the scene of an insurgency by his followers since 2007. They want to enforce his version of Islamic Sharia law in the region.

Fighting

In tribal areas in the north-west, the military says it has used helicopter gunships and heavy artillery guns to bomb suspected militant positions.

Pakistani people carry a protestor, injured by firing police, on a stretcher outside a hospital in Mingora, the main city in Swat on September 23, 2008.
A number of people received bullet wounds in Swat

Military spokesman Maj Murad Khan said 50 militants had been killed in clashes since Monday in Dara Adam Khel, close to the city of Peshawar.

He said troops had retaken control of the Kohat tunnel, a key road leading out of Peshawar. One Pakistani soldier was also killed in the clashes.

The army says another 10 militants have been killed in clashes in Bajaur region near the Afghan border.

There is no independent confirmation of any of the army claims.

The Pakistani army is engaged in a fierce campaign against militants in Bajaur which has forced some 300,000 people to flee their homes.

Attempts by the government to negotiate with militants in areas along the border with Afghanistan appear to have failed for now, and there have been a spate of recent suicide bombings.

They include a devastating militant attack on the Islamabad Marriott hotel on Saturday which killed more than 50 people, most of them Pakistanis.

Aid appeal

The United Nations refugee agency says it has asked donors for more than $17m in aid to help about 250,000 people displaced by fighting and floods in north-western Pakistan.

"The numbers are fluid as people come and go from their villages, but we expect them to increase as the conflict intensifies," William Spindler, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said in Geneva.

He said the money was needed to provide relief items like tents, blankets and plastic sheets.



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