Pakistanis Flee Swat Ahead of Taliban Clash

Militants take control of main city in strategic valley
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted May 5, 2009 7:26 AM CDT
Pakistani children stand on the rubble of the damaged portion of a government school wrecked by militants with explosive in Mingora, the main town of Pakistan's Swat Valley, Monday, May 4, 2009.   (AP Photo/Abdullah Khan)
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(Newser) – Pakistani authorities have warned residents of the country's troubled Swat Valley to leave their homes ahead of an expected military operation in the Taliban-controlled area. The February peace deal between Pakistan and the Taliban, which included the introduction of Sharia law, has effectively collapsed, reports Reuters. Militants have infiltrated several districts of Mingora, Swat's largest town, and have attacked government and army installations.

"We have asked residents to leave their areas because security forces may engage militants and we want to avoid civilian casualties," said a government official. Residents in the town said that militants had surrounded a paramilitary base and were patrolling the streets. While Swat is not on the Afghan border, the US and other Western nations fear the area could become a safe haven for militants from Pakistan and Afghanistan.