Pakistani troops in new deadly clashes with militants

A123SDG2.jpgMINGORA, Pakistan (Reuters) – At least 13 people, including two women, were killed in clashes between troops and militants on Thursday in Pakistan’s Swat valley, police said, taking the death toll in days of fighting to nearly 50.

The mounting casualties from renewed fighting in the scenic valley has virtually ended a peace deal the government signed in May to end a wave of violence that erupted late last year when militants tried to enforce Taliban-style rule.

Clashes broke out this week when militants killed three intelligence officials and captured up to 30 police and paramilitary troops in an attack on a checkpost.

Thursday’s fatalities included villagers whose houses were hit by mortar bombs overnight around Kabal, a militant strongholds.

“The dead include seven of a same family including two women killed by mortar bombs,” a police official said.

Residents say the militants have not been using mortars.

Security forces said they had targeted militants, but their foes were well entrenched among the civilian population.

Swat’s alpine beauty made it a top tourist destination until the militants, led by a radical cleric called Fazlullah, launched a campaign of violence last year to force people to follow strict Islamic laws.

The army began battling the militants in November, and the latest bloodshed appears to have ruined a peace deal agreed in May between the Islamists and a new provincial government in North West Frontier Province.

Militants accuse the government of violating the accord and have vowed to fight until troops are withdrawn from the valley.

In recent days they have destroyed several girls schools, bridges and other government installations, and on Thursday torched another school and attacked a police checkpost.

There was no immediate word on casualties from those attacks.

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