Pakistani Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah had been injured in an attack or surrounded by troops, which intensified operations and pounded militants' hideouts, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said today.
"There are reports that Maulana Fazlullah has been injured," Malik was quoted as saying by Geo News channel. Malik also told reporters that Fazlullah had been spotted and would not escape.
However, he added that nothing could be confirmed "without seeing (Fazlullah's) body". Fazlullah's brother was injured during an operation by security forces while members of his family have been detained in Haripur, Malik said.
The army sought to play down the issue, with chief military spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas saying there was no "confirmed information" about the whereabouts of Fazlullah, the local Taliban commander in the northwestern Swat valley.
Some militant commanders were "seriously injured" and a few were "killed and buried at unknown places" after the army targeted the Taliban's main leadership in Swat, Abbas told a news briefing.
"We have reports that some (of the militant leaders) have been quietly buried and our intelligence is trying to locate (their graves)," he said. "We want to have evidence in our hand. We would not like to take names without evidence."
Abbas said it was possible that Fazlullah had left the Swat valley or been surrounded by security forces. Fazlullah, a deputy of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Baitullah Mehsud, leads thousands of fighters in the Swat valley and adjoining districts.
Questions have been raised about his whereabouts as no senior Taliban commanders have been killed in the operations against militants in Malakand division, which includes Swat.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said that the Taliban's "first, second and third tier leadership" in Swat had been killed. It would soon be known whether the top leadership is "alive or not", he told reporters.