Page last updated at 13:32 GMT, Wednesday, 15 July 2009 14:32 UK

'Insurgents killed' in Swat clash

A Pakistani boy sits in a bus waiting to return to Swat valley with is family
Hundreds of families have now left the relief camps

Fighting between militants and the army in Pakistan's Swat valley has killed at least nine people, as people displaced by fighting continue to stream back.

Army officials said the dead included eight militants and one soldier.

The fighting took place in Kabal on Tuesday, army sources said. Kabal has not yet been opened for returnees.

An estimated 12,000 people left relief camps to return to the Swat valley on Tuesday. Hundreds more families were expected to return on Wednesday.

After the army said it had largely defeated Taliban militants following a two-month offensive in the troubled region, Pakistan's prime minister declared that it was safe for people to return home.

People housed in relief camps are being sent back with a military escort. But many others who have been staying with relatives have also been making their own way back.

Many of those returning have expressed uncertainty about the security situation in the area.

Fragile security

Wednesday's clashes took place when a military patrol on a search operation was attacked by militants in the Kabal sub-district.

Local residents confirm that the incident took place, although they could not say how many people had been killed.

A convoy of buses carries displaced people back to the Swat valley, Pakistan

The attack comes at a sensitive time, as the government has started to send people displaced by the fighting back to their homes in the valley.

The BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan in Islamabad says that scepticism remains high about the actual situation on the ground.

Many believe that the militants simply melted away to avoid a serious fight with the army and that they now intend to wage a guerrilla campaign, our correspondent says.

More than two million residents of Swat and the surrounding areas fled as the army and the Taliban fought for the last two months.

It was said to be one of the biggest human migrations in recent times.

Officials said the repatriation started slowly on Monday but picked up pace on Tuesday.

Launched in April after militants took area 100km from Islamabad
Army says some 1,700 militants killed, but none of their leaders
One of biggest human migrations of recent times, with 2m displaced

Nevertheless, the volume of people is still far short of the number expected to return in the initial wave. The UN has repeatedly stressed that returns must only be on a voluntary basis.

Those in the camps are travelling on arranged trucks and buses escorted by soldiers and army helicopters for their journey.

The heavy security showed that despite government claims, the Taliban remains a threat in the region, correspondents say.

The government has said it expects all displaced people to return to Swat by the end of July.

But, relief workers say, that may not be possible as people still have concerns over Swat's security that are yet to be resolved.


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