Pakistan Secures Key Swat Valley City
JACKI LYDEN, host:
In Pakistan today, the army says it has recaptured the key city of Mingora. It's the main town in the Swat Valley where the army is battling to take back control from Taliban militants.
From Islamabad, NPR's Julie McCarthy has the story.
JULIE MCCARTHY: Winning back Mingora was one of the principal objectives for Pakistan's army. What began as a fierce house-to-house fight for the city last week ended with the militants not putting up much resistance at all, according to military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas.
He told an afternoon news conference that when the Taliban, quote, "realized that they were being encircled, they decided not to give a pitched battle."
Defeating the Taliban in Mingora was militarily as well as psychologically significant. Extremists held a grisly sway over the city. Beheaded bodies were dumped in town squares. Women were harassed if they failed to adhere to the strict moral code of the militants.
While the recaptured Mingora was a milestone, the battle to rest control of the entire valley is far from over. Unable to capture or kill major Taliban commanders in Swat, the army has offered cash rewards as much as $600,000 for information leading to the arrest of top militant leaders. They may have retreated into the hills along with many fighters.
Yet the overall military campaign may have eased U.S. concerns that the Pakistani government was not up to the task of taking on the Taliban. It has not come without a huge price.
According to government officials, the conflict in the Swat Valley area has displaced nearly three million people from their homes. The government would like to get them back home as soon as possible but services damaged in the fighting first need to be restored. The army conceded that it could take at least two weeks to get electricity back up in the city of Mingora. A medical team has been dispatched to tend to those who remain stranded in the city during the siege.
Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Islamabad.
Correction June 10, 2009
In some broadcasts, we said, "The army has offered cash rewards of as much as $60,000 for information leading to the arrest of top militant leaders." The correct figure is $600,000.