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Page last updated at 18:59 GMT, Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Pakistan army 'will retake Swat'

 Pakistani army chief General Ashfaq Kayani (R) meets with a soldier during his visit to Swat valley on January 28, 2009.
Gen Kayani (right) promised "no amount of sacrifice"

Pakistan's army chief has pledged to restore government control of the Swat valley, which is currently controlled by Taleban militants.

Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani made the remarks to troops during a visit to the former tourist resort in the country's north-west near the Afghan border.

Troops were deployed in Swat after an Islamic insurgency began in 2007.

Hundreds have died in battles between troops and militants seeking to impose their austere version of Islamic law.

The BBC's M Ilyas Khan says Gen Kayani's remarks come at a time when military circles are talking of a new phase in operations against the militants.

The authorities are under severe pressure over the deteriorating security situation in Swat.

Killings

Gen Kayani "reiterated that the army had both the will and resolve to establish the writ of the government" in Swat, a military statement said.

"No amount of sacrifice will deter us to do our duty," Gen Kayani said, according to the statement.

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The general also "lauded the morale" of soldiers in Swat, a mountainous region of North West Frontier Province (NWFP) which until two years ago was a popular tourist area.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari also pledged on Wednesday to curb militancy in the valley and stop the Taleban from establishing their own courts, a government spokesman said.

Gen Kayani's comments coincided with an army statement which said that security forces killed seven militants and wounded 11 others in an operation in two villages there.

There was no independent confirmation of the casualty figures or if those killed were militants. Civilians deaths are frequently reported in the violence.

Further evidence of the deteriorating situation in Swat came when security forces found eight bullet-ridden bodies in the valley on Wednesday.

The bodies were found in the town of Mingora.

The militants are led by a radical local cleric, Maulana Fazlullah, who is linked to the Taleban.

His men are accused of killing dozens of state employees and government supporters in addition to destroying nearly 200 schools - most of them for girls.

The Taleban oppose education for girls, which they say is un-Islamic.

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