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Pakistan will fight Taliban to the death

PAKISTANI authorities are preparing for the return of residents to Swat's main town but decisive victory will only be won when Taliban leaders are dead, an army commander said yesterday.

The army began battling Taliban in the region in late April, after a militant thrust into a district 100 kilometers northwest of the capital.

The army has secured the main town of Mingora and pushed militants out of many other parts of the Swat valley - until recently famous for its ski slopes and summer hiking. But the fighting has also forced about 2 million people from their homes.

There are no independent casualty estimates, but the army says more than 1,230 militants were killed, while it lost more than 90 men. But Taliban leaders in Swat have apparently escaped the army's fire.

Major-General Ijaz Awan, an army commander in Swat, said conclusive victory would only be won when they were killed. "Their death is vital to kill their myth," Awan told a group of reporters flown to Swat by the army yesterday.

US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke arrived in Pakistan saying he wanted to assess relief efforts for the displaced and see how the US could help more. "We believe that the actions taken by the Pakistani government and military in recent weeks have been necessary, essential, and have improved the situation, but the fighting is still going on; there's a lot more to go," Holbrooke told Geo TV.

Holbrooke also said the US Government aimed to give Pakistan US$200 million, in addition to US$110 million already pledged, for help for the displaced.

Power, water and gas remain cut in Mingora, the largest in the Swat region, and food is short. Officials are discouraging refugees from returning home yet.


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