From Canada’s CBC News: (Hat tip tgomorgan)
Pakistani government troops secured footholds in the Taliban-controlled Swat Valley on Wednesday, discovering five headless corpses near the region’s main town.
Military officials said 11 militants were killed in the past 24 hours as commandos airlifted into the northeastern valley the day before took “firm hold’ in the remote Piochar area.
Troops were also consolidating their positions near a strategic bridge and a shrine in the valley, an army statement said.
Soldiers found the headless bodies near the town of Mingora, but no further information about the victims was provided. Local residents have said the Taliban uses the area as a dumping ground for decapitated victims.
Elsewhere in the turbulent northwest, police said dozens of assailants stormed a transport depot handling supplies for NATO troops in neighbouring Afghanistan and torched eight trucks before escaping.
Under strong U.S. pressure, Pakistani authorities abandoned peace talks last month with Taliban militants and launched a military operation to expel them from their stronghold in the Swat Valley.
The army claims it has killed more than 750 militants since the operation started.
Roughly 800,000 people have been forced from their homes in the violence, which has sparked concerns that more of Pakistan’s border regions are slipping from government control.
Tens of thousands of refugees have moved into camps run by the government and the United Nations. Others are living with relatives and friends.
Taliban in ‘business of fear’: Zardari
Afghan President Hamid Karzai warned Wednesday that the threat militants pose to both countries is very real.
“Terrorists and extremists are extending their reach in whole areas of our countries,” Karzai told a regional economic conference in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.
During a visit to London Wednesday, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari rejected a BBC report that his government controlled less than 40 per cent of the frontier region, calling it “incorrect.”
He also downplayed a recent Taliban threat that all national and provincial parliament members in the country’s northwest region must resign or risk harm to their families.
“They are in the business of fear,” he said. “These kinds of threats … the people have faced before and I’m sure they’ll face again.”
The Taliban are trying to challenge the way of life in Pakistan and the world, said Zardari.
“If I were to say they are trying to create a new world order, I would not be wrong,” he said.
U.K. gives $21M for aid to displaced
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who spoke to reporters following his meeting with Zardari, said the U.K. will redirect millions of dollars in financial aid to help people displaced by violence in the Swat Valley.
More than $21 million will immediately be used for humanitarian relief in the country’s northwest, said Brown.
“That is for food, shelter, to maintain and create services for people who have been displaced,” he said.
Brown said money from the U.K.’s multimillion-dollar aid budget for Pakistan will be refocused toward projects in the country’s lawless border regions and northern areas. Part of the funding will ensure 300,000 girls receive an education, he said.
Zardari said Britain’s continuing support of Pakistan helps convince the world “that Pakistan is a country that can be and will be a prolonged partners in this difficult time the world is facing.”