Pakistani forces have increased strikes on Taliban positions as they battle for control of a strategic northwestern valley.Helicopter gunships and and troops were involved in operations across Swat after the prime minister ordered the military to step up their efforts. Pakistani Prime Minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani said: “In order to restore honour and dignity of our homeland and to protect our people, the armed forces have been called in to eliminate the militants and terrorists.” Pakistan’s efforts against militants sheltering near the Afghan border are widely seen as vital to the government’s pledge to fight a growing Taliban insurgency. Authorities claim more than 70 militants have been killed this week and have accused the Taliban of holding the country hostage at gunpoint…. Hundreds of thousands of civilians are caught in the middle of the fierce fighting. Those who have managed to escape have sought refuge in UN-run aid camps. But with thousands already displaced by earlier battles between the government and Islamist militants, aid groups say a new exodus is intensifying a humanitarian crisis.