Page last updated at 20:32 GMT, Monday, 25 May 2009 21:32 UK

Stiff resistance by Swat Taliban


The BBC's Barbara Plett: "The Taliban have dug themselves in quite deeply"

Pakistan's military says it has made steady progress amid stiff resistance from the Taliban in the Swat valley.

Troops have taken the town of Maalam Jabba, once popular with ski tourists, which militants had used as a training centre and supply base, the army said.

Concern is growing for some 20,000 civilians still in Mingora city where street-to-street fighting continues.

About 2.4 million people have fled the valley to stay in camps, with relatives or in rented property, the UN says.

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said the estimate - provided by the North West Frontier Province - included about 160,000 people living in government-run camps.

Journalist have mostly been barred from frontline reporting but the BBC's Islamabad correspondent was among several journalists shown the mountain stronghold of Maalam Jabba which the army seized from the Taliban.

Troops had met "stiff resistance" before securing the town, said Athar Abbas, the army's chief spokesman.

'Long war'

He told the BBC that some order had been restored to the streets of Mingora.

"The latest situation is that almost, you could say, about one-quarter of Mingora city is under the possession of security forces there."

He had earlier said it would take 10 days to force out the Taliban.

A Taliban spokesman told the Associated Press that they would not fight the army in Mingora, but pledged to continue "the long war".

Meanwhile, assessments for reconstruction and resettlement of at least $1bn are being considered by the Pakistan government.

"We have started initial satellite surveys for the rehabilitation of homes, business and cultivatable lands," said Qamar Zaman Kaira, the federal information minister.


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