By Michael Heath
Dec. 26 (Bloomberg) — Pakistan’s army is defeating Islamic militants in Swat Valley near Afghanistan, President Pervez Musharraf said, three days after a suicide bomber killed nine people in an attack on a military convoy in the region.
The extremists’ effort to expand from the tribal regions “has been controlled,” Musharraf said in Karachi yesterday, according to the official Associated Press of Pakistan. “I want to pay tribute to the armed forces and people of Swat” for their work “in crushing the increasing terrorism in the area.”
The Dec. 23 suicide attack in Mingora, also in Swat Valley, killed four military personnel and five civilians, security agencies said. Twenty-three people were injured.
The army killed as many as 230 pro-Taliban militants in a two-week operation in Swat Valley that began at the end of November. It’s fighting militants loyal to Maulana Fazlullah, a cleric seeking to impose Islamic law in the once popular tourist destination about 250 kilometers (150 miles) from the capital, Islamabad.
Extremism and terrorism in Pakistan have “taken a new dimension and need to be controlled,” Musharraf said in a speech to mark the anniversary of the birth of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founder, according to APP. “We have faced problems in this process but we have also made headway.”
Musharraf’s support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism is unpopular with Islamist parties in Pakistan. He has survived at least four assassination attempts by extremists since 2001.
Al-Qaeda leaders have established a base in the tribal region of northwestern Pakistan, U.S. intelligence agencies said in a July report. Fighting between the army and militants in the region escalated after Musharraf ordered security forces to storm Islamabad’s Red Mosque in July, ending a challenge to the government by clerics seeking to impose Islamic law in the city.
Musharraf earlier this month denied there are people in the military who are sympathetic to the Taliban and al-Qaeda, saying the army has suffered 1,000 casualties since it began its anti- terrorist operations in the northwestern region in 2003.
Pakistan has about 80,000 soldiers in the tribal region and mans 1,000 military posts on the 2,430-kilometer frontier with Afghanistan.
Musharraf, 64, imposed a state of emergency in Pakistan on Nov. 3 and fired Supreme Court judges, accusing the judiciary of hampering the fight against terrorism.
The emergency decree was revoked on Dec. 15 before elections scheduled for Jan. 8.