Page last updated at 11:52 GMT, Friday, 11 September 2009 12:52 UK

Caught in the middle in Swat

This account by Ikramullah (not his real name) from Gowaleri village in the north-western Pakistani region of Swat is part of a series of first-person narratives recounted to the BBC's Abdul Hai Kakar by people who have been caught up in the war between the Pakistan army and Taliban militants.

A Pakistani soldier patrols Mingora, the main town of Swat valley, on August 1, 2009
People in Swat face daily violence

This happened on the morning of 26 October 2008.

Nearly 70 tribal elders from Gowaleri had gathered in the village mosque for talks with a Taliban representative, Mullah Shamsheer.

It was eventually decided in the talks that the Taliban would not be allowed to enter the village, but would only be allowed to use the road to pass through.

The delegates also agreed to the Taliban's demand that they meet the army officials and tell them also not to come into the village.

Everybody swore to abide by this decision with the Koran as witness, and Mullah Shamsheer concluded with a final prayer.

After the prayer, Mullah Shamsheer left the mosque while the tribal elders continued to debate how to talk to the army.

A few minutes later, Mullah Shamsheer returned and said, 'Amir Sahib is here and he wants to say something to you people.'

'Roar of rifles'

Moments later, local Taliban commanders Bin Yameen, Khoogh and Ghaznavi along with 30 armed militants stormed into the mosque.

They were armed with automatic rifles and their bodies were lined with bandoliers with grenades and bullets.

As soon as Bin Yameen entered the mosque, he opened fire with his rifle on Ayub Spindada, a relative of his.

Residents of Swat valley
The residents were caught between the army and the militants

That was probably a signal as the rest of the militants began to fire at the rest of the tribal council.

The cries of the victims were drowned out by the roar of the rifles.

When the firing stopped, I saw people lying around, dead and injured.

Some had taken refuge behind pillars in the mosque, while others were standing in small groups in corners of the mosque.

We later learned that five men had died and seven were injured in the firing.

The rest were taken hostage by the militants.

After the firing, the Taliban took the bodies of Ayub Spindada and another tribal leader and cut off their hands and feet.

Then they hung the bodies outside on a tree.

At this point nearly 60 men were still being held hostage inside by the militants.

'Very scared'

Moments later, heavy firing started outside the mosque.

All of us inside got very scared as we thought the villagers had attacked the Taliban.

We thought that the militants would now kill us all.

The firing continued from 10am to 1pm.

After that the Taliban left taking 60 of us along with them.

Taliban members in north-west Pakistan
The local people say the army and secret agencies supported the Taliban

They took us to a nearby mountain range called Aghal and kept us there in an abandoned school.

They would beat us regularly.

They would also sharpen knives in front of us while talking about who to carve up next.

After two days they shot dead two of the hostages, and hung their bodies on poles outside the school.

Later, they agreed to release three of the delegates on the condition that they would make the villagers agree to all the conditions put forward by the Taliban.

The delegates rushed to the village and begged the people to sign the agreement.

They consented and we were finally released.

The Taliban also demanded money or Klashnikov rifles in exchange for the villagers.

This was paid as soon as possible.

Army attack

When we returned the villagers told us about their own travails on the day of the incident.

They said army helicopters attacked them while they were burying those killed by the Taliban.

Three men were injured, while the rest of the people ran away leaving the bodies behind.

When the residents of Pir Samiullah village in our neighbourhood heard that Gowaleri village had been attacked by the Taliban, they formed a Lashkar and came to help us.

But when they saw the helicopters shelling the village, they also ran away.

I believe that if our army and secret agencies did not support the Taliban, then we, the people of Swat, would have wiped out these handful of miscreants easily.

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