Taliban Resumes Patrols in Swat
Monday, May 4, 2009
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, May 3 -- Taliban fighters resumed armed patrols in the Swat Valley's main town Sunday, an official said, a sign of severe strain on a much-criticized peace deal with the government that imposes Islamic law in part of Pakistan's northwest.
The insurgent patrols in Mingora followed allegations by the Pakistani army that the Taliban fighters were in "gross violation" of the peace pact and an accusation that they brutally killed two security personnel. But the patrols also came as the regional government tried to boost the peace effort by announcing the creation of an Islamic appeals court.
Yet even that move hit an immediate snag. A hard-line cleric mediating the peace deal rejected the court, saying he was not consulted on its makeup.
As tensions mounted Sunday, the government ordered a curfew for Swat from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., said Khushal Khan, a top administrator, who confirmed the patrols. He said officials were discussing what to do if the insurgents violate the order.
Under the deal struck in February, the government agreed to impose Islamic law in Swat and the surrounding areas that make up the Malakand division. Instead of laying down their arms, as some had hoped, Taliban forces in Swat soon entered the adjacent Buner district, also covered by the deal, and began imposing their harsh brand of Islam there.
Buner lies 60 miles from Islamabad, a fact that raised alarm domestically and abroad. The Pakistani military went on the offensive over the past week to drive the Taliban out of Buner.
An army statement Sunday said 80 insurgents had been killed, along with three soldiers. An important local commander was thought to be among those killed in Buner, the statement said.
But the statement focused much more on Swat.
It accused insurgents there of looting a bank, attacking a power grid and partially blowing up a bridge. It said that security forces discovered at least three explosives-laden vehicles apparently intended for suicide attacks and that clashes between security forces and insurgents left at least one soldier dead.
The incidents put the insurgents "in gross violation of the peace accord" and threaten "the lives of the [civilian] population, civil administration as well as security forces personnel," the statement said.