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By Iqbal Khattak
MINGORA, Pakistan -- The Pakistan military said the killing of a senior Taliban commander in the Swat valley December29 is "significant" to the effort of restoring the central government's writ in the region.
Siddiqullah went by one name and was regarded as a key Taliban commander and 'explosives expert and terror symbol'. Commonly known as Abu Zar, he was found dead in the former militant stronghold of Charbagh, according to regional military spokesman Maj. Mushtaq Khan.
"His killing comes as a major blow to militancy in Swat and we believe it a great success for the security forces", Mushtaq said.
Abu Zar supervised IED (improvised explosive device) attacks and allegedly "drove" Taliban-linked terror through the streets of Swat, local residents and the military spokesman said.
Local media reported that the Taliban commander was captured sometime back in Dargai, a town in the Malakand region in the Provincially- Administered Tribal Areas. However, the military said he was killed when he encountered security forces during a search operation in Charbagh.
The military launched Operation Rah-e-Rast (Operation Right Path) last May after the Mullah Fazlullah-led Taliban took over the valley weeks after reaching a "peace deal" with the provincial government in Peshawar, capital of North West Frontier Province, in February.
Abu Zar was the son of Taliban commander Bashir Muhammad, who was also killed in recent military operations. The government had placed a Rs.10 million reward on Bashir.
"This man was responsible for improvised explosive device attacks on security forces and beheading some 25 innocent civilians whose only crime was they were opposing Taliban-style justice. So, you can imagine how important it was to take out this threat", Mushtaq said.
Swat today presents a different situation as the state’s writ has been restored to more than 90 percent of the area.
"Today, we have greater control over the district than before", Operation Commander for the Swat region Maj.-Gen. Ishfaq Nadeem told Central Asia Online from his headquarters in Malakand Top.
A number of key commanders and leaders of Taliban have been either killed or captured since the operation was launched. Mehmood Khan, a trusted advisor of Mullah Fazlullah, and spokesman of the Swat Taliban, Muslim Khan, are in custody.
The second phase of the Swat operation, reconstruction and rehabilitation, has already started.