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Militants stop Pak troops from entering Swat

April 25, 2009 16:59 IST

Taliban fighters on Saturday prevented a convoy of security forces from entering their stronghold in the north west Swat valley, a day after the Pakistan Army chief pledged to eliminate terrorists, who challenge the writ of the state.

A convoy of seven army trucks was stopped by armed Taliban militants at Qambar, a small town near Mingora, the main city in Swat valley, witnesses and Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan said.

Witnesses said the convoy withdrew from Qambar after the Taliban forced the troops to go back, averting any clash.

There was no official reaction to the Taliban preventing the convoy from entering Swat.

Sources said local authorities were consulting Taliban leaders to convince them to allow the convoy to move into the area. The Taliban action could lead to a worsening in the situation as army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani announced on Friday that his force is "determined to root out the menace of terrorism" and "would not allow the militants to dictate terms to the government or impose their way of life on the civil society".

Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan told reporters that the deployment of additional troops in Swat is against a peace deal signed in February to introduce Islamic laws in Malakand division, which includes Swat.

Khan said the militants could not allow the troops to be deployed in Swat after the peace agreement. Official sources, however, said the agreement allowed the free movement of security forces.

The Taliban and security forces declared separate ceasefires after the peace deal but militants continue to occupy many parts of Swat, local residents said.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said on Friday that his government could review the peace deal in Swat if the Taliban did not stop interfering in the administrations affairs. Interior ministry chief Rehman Malik has also warned the Taliban to vacate all villages in Swat.

However, local residents said the Taliban now control over 80 per cent of Swat, which was a popular tourist destination till about two years ago, and patrolling all the key roads in the valley.

They said the Taliban had also set up their own courts despite the agreement that envisages the constitution of Qazi or Islamic courts in Swat. Hundreds of Taliban from Swat who entered Buner district, some 100 km from Islamabad, have withdrawn from the area in the wake of threats of action by the security forces.

Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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