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Pakistan Arrests Taliban Spokesman in Swat

By VOA News
11 September 2009

Pakistan's military says it has arrested five top Taliban leaders, including its chief spokesman in the Swat Valley.

The army says the five militants were taken into custody during a security operation near Mingora, the main town in the Swat Valley. Investigators have not said when the arrests took place.

Military spokesman Athar Abbas said Friday two of the detained militants, spokesman Muslim Khan and Taliban commander Mahmood Khan, each had bounties of about $120,000 on their heads.

A leading English newspaper in Pakistan, The News, said the men had been involved in peace negotiations with the government when they were arrested. However, Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik denied that, saying the only options for Taliban members were to be "killed or arrested."

Meanwhile, a top government official in the northwestern Khyber region said Friday that at least 600 local police officials have quit their jobs, following a threat from Islamist militant commander Mangal Bagh.

Khyber administration chief Tariq Hayat says the security officers failed to report for work, after the militant leader warned that he would demolish the officers' homes if they showed up.

Khyber officials say Mangal Bagh made the threat Thursday over his illegal FM radio.

Pakistan's government launched an offensive in late April aimed at clearing militants from the greater Swat valley region.

The military says it has driven most of the Taliban from the valley, but sporadic fighting persists.

Militant spokesman Muslim Khan speaks English and spent several years living in the United States.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters



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