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Taliban to avoid combat: spokesman

Islamabad, May 25 (ANI): Taliban militants have said that they will not attack the military in Mingora, the main town of Pakistan’s Swat Valley to avoid triggering battles that would result in civilian casualties and destruction.

The News quoted a militant spokesman as saying: “This is a long war and we will fight it strategically,” he told late Sunday from an undisclosed location in the valley. “We will continue fighting until an Islamic system is enforced.”

Muslim Khan, the militant spokesman, said its troops would not engage the army in Mingora because “we have seen when the army retaliate for our attacks they always kill civilians. Their attacks always damage public property. We do not want that.”

Pakistan began the offensive last month against militants in the North West Frontier Province after they ignored the terms of a cease-fire.

Pakistan’s western allies, worried the nuclear-armed nation was buckling under the threat of the militants, have hailed the operation.

Close to 1.9 million people have fled the valley and surrounding districts, but up to 20,000 remain in Mingora, where the military entered Saturday after encircling it. Many of the estimated 4,000 militants in the valley are believed to be there, raising the prospect of bloody urban fighting.

Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said Monday that since the militants “have started using ploys to escape. They are now remembering the civilians whom they used to behead and decapitate.”

He said the operation in the city would go on as planned.

Commanders have said they aim to eliminate the militants in the valley and on Friday said any form of cease-fire was highly unlikely. (ANI)

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