Friday, September 11, 2009

Pakistan Arrests Swat Taliban Spokesman, 4 Others

"Pakistani soldiers arrested the spokesman for the Taliban in the Swat Valley and four other commanders, the military announced Friday, striking its first major blow against the leadership of the insurgency in the one-time tourist resort.

The army gave few details, saying only the arrests came after a successful operation in Swat. A local newspaper quoted a militant as saying some of the men had been engaged in secret peace talks with the military when they were detained.

The army launched an offensive in the scenic valley in May after the Taliban seized control of the region following a two-year reign of terror. The area lies close to Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, where Al Qaeda and Taliban have long held sway.

The military claims to have killed more than 1,800 insurgents in operations praised by the West, which had been concerned nuclear-armed Pakistan lacked the will to take on militants also blamed for attacks on U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan.

But the failure to capture or kill Swat militant leaders had led to fears the insurgents could stage a comeback.

An army statement said Swat Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan and commanders Mahmood Khan, Fazle Ghaffar, Abdul Rehman and Sartaj Ali had been arrested, but did not say when or where. The first two had bounties of 10 million rupees ($121,000) on their head."

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