Friday, April 24, 2009

Troops sent to Taliban areas

PESHAWAR (Pakistan) - PAKISTAN on Thursday deployed paramilitary troops to northwestern districts infiltrated by Taliban militants, as global concern mounted over Islamabad's ability to rein in the Islamists.

The extremists patrolled the streets of Buner district, about 100 kilometres outside the capital, warning residents not to engage in 'un-Islamic' activity and barring women from public places, officials and witnesses said.

'Local police are helpless and seem to have lost control,' said resident Shams Buneri. 'Taliban are moving freely everywhere in the town.'

The extremists moved into the district from the Swat valley, where Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari recently signed a deal allowing the implementation of strict Islamic law in a bid to end a two-year campaign of deadly violence.

In a bid to bring the deteriorating security situation in Buner under control, authorities sent in hundreds of paramilitary soldiers.

'We have decided to deploy eight platoons,' Frontier Constabulary commandant Zafarullah Khan told reporters. There are roughly 40-45 soldiers per platoon.

Buner police official Rasheed Khan confirmed to reporters that Taliban fighters were patrolling the streets unchecked, but added that district government officials were in negotiations to put an end to the militant occupation.

Highlighting the instability in the area, one policeman was killed and another wounded when unidentified gunmen opened fire on their vehicle, which was being escorted by paramilitary forces, police official Syed Azhar told reporters.

Several Taliban militants also occupied a police post in Buner and vacated it after sometime taking a police inspector with them, Mr Khan said.

Fighters loyal to the fundamentalist Taliban, who were in power in Afghanistan from 1996 until they were ousted in a US-led invasion in 2001, have also moved into adjacent Shangla district, local lawmaker Fazal Ullah told reporters. -- AFP

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