On Friday, a suicide bomber detonated his payload inside a mosque in Hayagay Sharqi, in Upper Dir near Swat. The bombing is said to have killed 38 and wounded 70, but the tolls could rise as police sift rubble.
Hayagay Sharqi’s population had defied the Taliban, and this strike seems likely payback.
Taliban fighters attacked a government prison transport convoy on Saturday and killed two aides to Mawlana Sufi Muhammad. The latter is a leader of the movement for imposition of a fundamentalist version of Islamic law in Swat, who was himself initially said to be among the captives, before Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani denied that report.
The attack on the convoy tells me two things. First, the Taliban were afraid that the captives had valuable intelligence on them, which they did not want falling into the government’s hands. And, second, the Taliban have moles in the Pakistani military, since preumably the transport of those prisoners would be a high security affair and it wouldn’t be common knowledge where they were.
The US denied Friday that the major funding for the Pakistani Taliban was coming from the poppy/ heroin trade. They suspect the funds come from the oil-rich states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman).
Obama envoy Richard Holbrooke also expressed fears that the build-up of US troops in Afghanistan might cause Afghan Taliban to flood into the Pakistani northwest.
The United Nations warns that relief supplies are running out for the some two million persons displaced by the Swat fighting. Dawn writes:
‘ ‘This is one of the largest and fastest displacements of human beings that the world has witnessed in the last 15 years,’ Mr Mogwanja said. ‘And it has been certainly the largest Pakistan has ever experienced in its history.’
For every 20 people fleeing, one person was returning to their home in the northwest, mainly to tend the livestock or harvest crops that are vital for their livelihoods, Mr Mogwanja said. Often only the men return to do the work, he added. He did not specify to which areas of Swat the individuals were returning. Hundreds of the residents of Swat were seen at Got Koto, an area outside the valley, who had tried to return to Mingora but were stopped on the road by security forces. ‘The fact that the government is not allowing them to move right up to their farms, I think, is a sign that the conflict is still continuing in this area,’ Mr Mogwanja said. ‘These are not returns that have been encouraged or facilitated in any way by the humanitarian community,’ he added.’
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