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Army says 55 militants are killed as crackdown continues. Curfew is lifted to allow thousands more civilians to flee, though officials fear Taliban fighters will try to blend in and escape too.
The Pakistani military said it had killed 55 Taliban in the Swat Valley on Friday and that it had lifted a curfew so thousands more civilians could flee the area in advance of an expected operation against militants in the area's largest town.
Taliban fighters are reportedly deeply entrenched in Mingora and the military
Petraeus made these assessment in talks with lawmakers and Obama administration officials this week, according to individuals familiar with the discussions.
They said Petraeus and senior administration officials believe the Pakistani army, led by Chief of Staff Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, is "superior" to the civilian government, led by President Ali Zardari, and could conceivably survive even if Zardari's government falls to the Taliban.
The Taliban movement is headed by Mullah Mohammed Omar. Mullah Omar's original commanders were "a mixture of former small-unit military commanders and Madrasah teachers," and the rank and file made up mostly of Afghan refugees who had studied at Islamic religious schools in Pakistan. The overwhelming majority of the Taliban movement were ethnic Pashtuns from southern Afghanistan and western Pakistan, along with a smaller number of volunteers from Islamic countries or regions in North Africa, the Middle East and the former Soviet Union. The Taliban received valuable training, supplies and arms from the Pakistani government, particularly the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and many recruits from Madrasahs for Afghan refugees in Pakistan, primarily ones established by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI).