Clashes in Pakistan's Swat Valley kill 17

At least 16 suspected militants and one soldier were killed in clashes in northwestern Pakistan's Swat Valley, the military said Sunday as it escalated its offensive against insurgents in the one-time tourist haven. Swat lies outside the tribal regions along the Afghan border where the Taliban and al-Qaida have traditionally had their strongholds. Residents say militants now control most of the valley, despite an army operation that began more than a year ago. The military recently vowed to reinvigorate its efforts in Swat, where Taliban fighters have set up their own courts, destroyed scores of girls' schools and reportedly driven out hundreds of thousands of residents. The latest clashes broke out in several parts of the valley over 24 hours, according to a military statement that detailed the casualties. It said troops "consolidated their hold" over Charbagh, an area considered a militant stronghold.