SWAT, Nov 15: Security forces and militants fought ferocious battles in Shangla on Thursday as the army began advancing on Alpuri town to dislodge the fighters from their redoubts. The clashes left 18 militants and four soldiers dead.
Locals said the security forces pounded militants’ positions and some villages after coming under fire in the Pagorai village. They said the militants had taken up positions on mountains overlooking a key road connecting Alpuri with Bisham, another major town in the district where the troops had started their advance on the militant strongholds.
They said the troops, backed by artillery and helicopter gunships, were advancing at snail’s pace because both sides were using heavy weaponry. The militants, according to them, had captured strategic hilltops and put up stiff resistance.
The Inter Services Public Relations said 20 militants had been killed – eight in Swat and 12 in Shangla. It denied the killing of any soldier.
“We have confirmed reports that eight militants were killed when gunships targeted militants’ positions north of Kabal and Kuza Banda,” ISPR director-general Maj-Gen Waheed Arshad told Dawn by phone. He said an ammunition dump and mortar position of the militants had been destroyed.
“For the first time the troops have started operation to clear the Bisham-Shangla road and attacked a critical gorge about 5km from Alpuri. We have reports of the killing of 12 militants in that action,” Gen Arshad said.
He claimed that the militants had abandoned Alpuri and fled to the mountains near Mingora. However, according to local people, the militants had decided to lie low for now. Some of the fighters had retreated to the Alpuri police station, they said.
An elder of Pagorai, Mohammad Zaman, said the security forces pounded Pagorai, Mian Kalay and Shalmani villages after coming under fire.
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