Taliban Seize City as Up to 500,000 Civilians Flee

Key Swat Town of Mingora Now Occupied by Militants

by Jason Ditz, May 05, 2009

The Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has reportedly wrested control of the Swat Valley’s largest town, Mingora, from the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) government and Pakistani security forces. The move comes just one day after the group announced that it was formally withdrawing from the controversial Swat Valley peace deal in response to ongoing military offensives in and around the valley.

With the truce apparently in ruins civilians are leaving the region, once a popular tourist destination, in droves and as many as 500,000 have reportedly already left their homes. Reports of indiscriminate shelling by the military and use of human shields by the militants are rampant, and the once sleepy valley is now one of the deadliest warzones on the planet.

The peace deal began to unravel when the government, alarmed by a growing militant presence in the Buner district, launched offensives against the groups along the Swat Valley’s periphery. Since the TTP began to retaliate in earnest they have managed to capture several towns outright and spokesman Muslim Khan says they control around 90 percent of the valley at this point. It seems the government forgot that the initial reasoning behind the concessions it made in the Swat Valley deal was that it had tried, unsuccessfully, to defeat the militants militarily. With the groups even more dug in than ever, it seems hard to believe this round of offensives will be any more successful.

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