Pakistan sets up military base in troubled Swat Valley

ISLAMABAD (AFP) - Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday announced the setting up of a permanent military base in the troubled Swat Valley where Taliban insurgents shot schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai in the head.

The scenic northwestern district slipped out of government control after Taliban fighters led by cleric Maulana Fazlullah, now chief of Tehreek-e-Taleban Pakistan (TTP), took control of the area in 2007 and waged a brutal campaign of beheadings, violence and multiple attacks on girls' schools.

By July 2009 the army declared the region back under their control, saying the rebels had all been killed, captured or fled, but more than 20,000 troops remained in Swat and adjacent districts.

"Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has in principle approved and announced a brigade level cantonment for Swat and (adjacent) Malakand areas," his office said in a statement, adding that the approval came during his visit to Swat.

"The prime minister lauded the role played by the army in bringing peace and stability to the area." Political Analyst Hasan Askari said the army's permanent presence will help prevent the return of Taliban insurgents to the area.

"It is because of the internal security situation and the threat of the return of militancy that the army is making a permanent presence in Swat," he told AFP. "Had the army not been there, Taliban would have been in power in Swat."

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