Pakistan Vows to Restore Scenic Region Swarming With Islamist Militants

Pakistan's army chief vowed Wednesday to restore government control of the Swat Valley, a scenic region increasingly under the sway of Islamist militants.

Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani made the remarks to troops on a visit to the region, formerly a popular tourist destination, located near the Afghan border.

"No amount of sacrifice will deter us to do our duty," he said, according to an army statement. Kayani said the army has the "will" and "resolve" to retake the valley.

Another army statement said security forces killed seven militants and wounded 11 others in an operation in two villages there.

Militants in Swat have beheaded civilians and police, attacked security forces and burned or bombed schools, mainly girls institutions, to establish their hard-line version of Islam.

The battle in the region is seen as especially important because unlike other largely autonomous regions of the northwest, Swat is under nominal government control. Up to 1 1/2 years ago it had a thriving tourist industry.

The militants in the valley are led by cleric Maulana Fazlullah, who uses illegal FM radio to spread his propaganda.

Pakistan Information Minister Sherry Rehman said the government's technical teams were working to block the broadcasts. "They are illegally using free airwaves," she said.