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Pakistan sends troops to north-west as Taliban enter new district

Article published on the 2009-04-23 Latest update 2009-04-23 13:51 TU

Men try to extinguish a ravaging fire after fuel trucks were set aflame in the northwestern city of Peshawar(Photo: Reuters)

Men try to extinguish a ravaging fire after fuel trucks were set aflame in the northwestern city of Peshawar
(Photo: Reuters)

Pakistan has sent paramilitary troops to districts around the Swat valley in North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), as Taliban fighters move into Shangla district after taking over neighbouring Buner. Early Thursday armed men attacked a truck terminal in the provincial capital, Peshawar, shortly after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused central government of "abdicating to the Taliban and the extremists".

Swat and the surrounding districtsGeo TV

Swat and the surrounding districts
Geo TV

Over 30 Taliban, carrying advanced weapons, were reported  to have entered the Puran area of Shangla district Thursday.

"Taliban militants have starting partrolling around Loch Bazaar, causing fear and tension among the local residents," reports Pakistan's GeoTV, while one police officer was killed and another wounded in Buner district, which the Taliban have recently taken over.

The government has deployed eight platoons, over 300 soldiers, of paramilitaries to the districts where the Taliban are extending their writ after an agreement to introduce Islamic sharia law in Malakand district.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Thuresday defended his government from sharp criticism by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who accused the government of "basically abdicating to the Taliban and the extremists". 

Gilani said that the government has to respect the mandate of provincial leaders, who championed the peace agreement, and said that it will meet local tribal council, the jirga, to "assess if peace is established" in the Swat valley, where the deal applies.

Clinton called on Pakistanis to "speak out forcefully against a policy that is ceding more and more territory to the insurgents". Washington is worried that Taliban advances in Pakistan will disrupt its strategy in neighbouring Afghanistan.

"It doesn't seem that the army and the government are on the same page," says Arif Nizami, the editor of The Nation newspaper. "And, generally speaking, there is a sense of uncertainty within Pakistan how to deal with this Taliban menace.

"So, in a way, when the first diplomat of  the only superpower in the world says that there is a clear and present danger, it's an alarm bell not only for the Pakistani leadership, as well as for the Pakistani military."

Analysis: Arif Nizami, editor of The Nation, Lahore

23/04/2009 by Salil Sarkar

Dozens of armed men attacked a truck terminal near the provincial capital, Peshawar, before dawn on Thursday, burning five tanker trucks carrying fuel for Nato troops in Afghanistan.

US Joint Chiefs of Staff chief Admiral Michael Mullen met his Pakistani counterpart General Tariq Majeed at Joint Staff Headquarters in Rawalpindi, assuring him that the US will address Islamabad's concerns over its regional strategy.

Meanwhile, British police defended anti-terror raids earlier this month in which 12 men, mostly Pakistani, were detained but then freed without charge.