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Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Maulana Fazlullah Swat Taliban chief 'has escaped

The head of the Taliban in Pakistan's Swat valley says he has escaped the army and is now in Afghanistan.
Maulana Fazlullah, who was said to be critically wounded by top Pakistani officials in July, was speaking exclusively to the BBC by telephone.
The cleric founded the Taliban in Swat which sought to enforce a hardline version of Sharia law in the region.
Pakistan's government accepted his demands, but later sent in troops after the militants reneged on a peace deal.
"I have reached Afghanistan safely," Maulana Fazlullah told BBC Urdu.
"We are soon going to launch full-fledged punitive raids against the army in Swat."
He went on to say that those claiming success for the Swat operation should try and prevent drone attacks and the US security firm Blackwater from operating in Pakistan.
"The authorities should beware, especially Mian Iftikhar Hussain, whose fate will be like that of Najibullah," he warned.
Mian Iftikhar Hussain is the information minister in the government of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province.
Dr Najibullah was Afghan president before the Taliban hanged him in 1996 when they took Kabul.
Talking about President Barack Obama's new Afghan policy, Maulana Fazlullah said there was no need for the US to send in more troops.
"Hundreds of thousands of Pakistani soldiers are already involved in furthering the US agenda in the region," he said.
'Boost for militants'
Maulana Fazlullah has been incommunicado for several months.
During this time a number of reports had circulated about his death and/or capture by the military.
These had gained credence after Pakistani authorities said he was mortally wounded in the army operation.
The Taliban denied reports that he had been injured or was close to death.
News that he is alive and well is likely to be a big boost for the Taliban in Pakistan.
Despite Maulana Fazlullah's claims, the Taliban are effectively destroyed in Swat.
They are also on the run in their main stronghold in South Waziristan where the Pakistani military recently launched a major offensive.

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