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Pakistan army, Taliban trade accusations of heightening tensions

Pakistan army, Taliban trade accusations of heightening tensions

Pakistan's army and the Taliban are blaming each other for a rise in tensions that threatens to destroy a much-criticized peace deal, ahead of the Pakistani president's trip this week to Washington for talks with President Barack Obama.
The army accused militants in the Swat Valley on Sunday of looting, attacking infrastructure and killing one soldier. A Taliban spokesman said militants will start patrolling Swat's main town, and acknowledged that they cut the throats of two soldiers as revenge for the army killing two insurgents.
What happens to the peace pact is likely to figure prominently in talks between Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Obama later this week. Zardari is expected to ask for more money to help Pakistan's battered economy and under-equipped security forces.
Under February's peace deal, the government agreed to impose Islamic law in the districts that make up the Malakand Division in hopes that the militants would lay down their arms.
But the Taliban in Swat were emboldened, and soon entered the adjacent Buner district to impose their harsh brand of Islam.
Pakistan has insisted on using negotiations and force in tackling violent extremism within its borders. It's an approach that worries U.S. officials, who warn that peace deals allow the insurgents time and room to strengthen.
Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters already have strongholds along Pakistan's border regions from which to plan attacks on U.S. and NATO forces in neighboring Afghanistan, and American leaders don't want to see Swat turn into a sanctuary for them.
Sunday, the Swat Taliban started patrolling Mingora, the valley's main town, in response to military patrols, Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan said.
"We are not violating the peace deal. This is government and security forces who are doing that. We have started armed patrols in response to security forces patrols. We will keep on doing that if they do, and we wouldn't if they don't. We have a right to defend ourselves," Khan said.
In recent weeks, the militants have moved into Buner, a district just 60 miles from Islamabad. The proximity of the district to the capital raised alarms domestically and abroad, and Pakistan's military went on the offensive over the past week to drive the Taliban out.
An army statement Sunday said 80 militants including an important local commander had been killed, along with three soldiers. But the army's statement focused much more on Swat itself.
It accused militants there of looting a bank, attacking a power grid and blowing up part of a bridge. It said security forces discovered at least three explosives-laden vehicles apparently intended for suicide attacks.


Updated : 2021-08-04 04:38 GMT+08:00