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More than 1,200 civilians have been killed and 2,000 wounded by suicide bombings, targeted killings by militants and clashes between security forces and militants since the operation began.

The violence also has claimed the lives of more than 400 security officials and about 700 militants, officials say.

Taliban officials have established their own courts, announcing and implementing punishment in public places. Enemies have been beheaded, and accused adulterers have been stoned to death.

Their influence is not limited to Swat. On Dec. 28, a suicide bomber struck a polling station during elections in the Buner district, next to Swat. More than 40 people were killed.

Swat militants took responsibility, saying the attack was revenge for an incident a few months earlier when locals in Buner killed five militants.