Swat’s Taleban expand operations

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from BBC

Taleban militants from Pakistan’s troubled district of Swat have expanded operations into nearby regions after a peace deal with the government.

Dozens of militants have been streaming into bordering Buner district to take over mosques and government offices.

Buner is part of the Malakand region which has just seen the implementation of Islamic Sharia law.

This is part of a peace deal with the militants who had been fighting security forces since August 2007.

Mian Iftikhar Hussain, information minister for North West Frontier Province, said he had received reports of the Taleban expansion.

Recent reports said the Taleban had ransacked the offices of international aid and development agencies working in Buner.

Some employees of the agencies were also briefly taken hostage before being released on Monday.

Patrols

The Taleban have banned the playing of music in cars and are also using mosques to invite local youth to join them.

The Taleban have also started regular patrols in the district.

Buner’s police chief, Rashid Khan, said the police had lodged an official complaint over the matter.

But the Taleban are not mentioned in the reports, which only names “unknown persons” as the culprits.

Mian Iftikhar Hussain maintains that the Taleban must disarm as agreed under the peace deal.

“Even Sufi Mohammad has said that there is no reason for the Taleban not to disarm,” he said.

He was referring to the head of a local religious group who has been acting as the government’s chief negotiator with the Taleban.

“We initially adopted the path of dialogue and reconciliation, but this is as far as we can go,” Mr Hussain said.

“We implemented Sharia law as it was a demand of the people, not just the Taleban.

“If they continue with their activities, they will not have the support of the people.

“The majority of the people are now with the government. The government will not stand by and tolerate [the violation of] the peace deal.”

Meanwhile, the Taleban say they will continue to operate in the valley and will not lay down their arms until Sharia is fully implemented.

“We told [non-governmental organisations] to stay away from Malakand division”, Muslim Khan, a spokesman for the Swat Taleban, said.

On Monday, he said there was “no question” of the Taleban laying down their arms.

He said his movement’s aim was the enforcement of Sharia law in all of Pakistan.

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