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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Pakistan Taliban quit key district to avoid offensive

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

Islamabad, April 25 ,IRNA -- Taliban militants, who had entered a district in Pakistan’s northwest and raised concerns in and outside the country, withdrew on Friday to their stronghold of Swat as the government deployed troops for possible offensive, officials and locals said.

Taliban militants had entered Buner district, 100 kilometers from capital Islamabad after a deal was signed to introduce Islamic laws in Swat and some other parts in the northwest.

Taliban and the government had declared ceasefire after the agreement to end 18-month fighting between militants and Pakistani security forces.

Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan told reporters that the militants have started pulling out from Buner on the instructions of Taliban chief Fazalullah.

The government had warned to use force if they did not vacate the strategic town, officials said.

Local TV showed footage leaving armed Taliban in vehicles moving towards Swat.

A top government official in the region Syed Mohammed Javed, rushed to Buner to represent the government in efforts to convince the Taliban to quit the area. He said top cleric Sufi Muhamamd who struck the peace deal in February with the government persuaded the Taliban to leave the area.

Javed said that all Taliban fighters have left Buner under the peace deal, adding that some people are trying to frustrate the peace efforts.

Muslim Khan said around 100 Taliban had entered Buner only to maintain peace and preach Islamic values.

But the people said that Taliban had started armed patrolling, raising fear of conflict with the security forces.

There is no report of Taliban withdrawal from another area called Shangla, only 10 kilometers away from Karakoram highway, connecting Pakistan and China.

In Buner, Taliban had closed down all regular courts and asked the judges to leave. They had also stopped NGOs to stop work and leave.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defence Secretary Robert Gates and U.S chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen expressed concern over the growing Taliban threat and had asked Pakistan to take action against Taliban.

The army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in a tough statement said the army 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.

End News / IRNA / News Code 451881

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