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In Pakistan, Swat Valley police give up in face of Taliban attacks

Taliban struck a police station Wednesday. Many police are resigning because of death threats.

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Leaving: A policeman stood guard in Pakistan's northwestern Swat Valley in 2007. Taliban threats have sharply reduced police ranks.

Tariq Mahmood/AFP/GEtty Images/NEWSCOM

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Fazal Rehman's childhood dream was to be a police officer. But after a dozen years on the force in Pakistan's Swat Valley, he has finally turned in his badge.

During his training, Swat, which is located in the North West Frontier Province, about a five-hour-drive from Islamabad, was an idyllic place. Known as the "Switzerland of Pakistan," it was renowned for lush valleys, ragged mountainsides, and snowcapped peaks.

But in the past two years, Swat has been caught up in the throes of a violent insurgency that has repelled tourists and is forcing locals to manage their lives around curfews and bans – and prompting many to leave the area.

The latest violence struck Wednesday, when militants attacked and destroyed a police station, capturing – and later releasing – some 30 paramilitary soldiers and policemen. A Taliban spokesman said the Taliban had gotten promises from the men that they would quit their jobs.

Mr. Rehman resigned about four months ago when, he says, the situation became unlivable for him and other police officers. "My colleagues were being targeted and beheaded," he says. "I thought enough was enough, and decided to switch careers."

The local Taliban, who have organized themselves into a party titled the Tehrik-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi, are targeting all pro-state elements – police, government officials, the Army. Led by radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah, the Taliban have issued repeated warnings to police officers. Last October, the Taliban distributed several pamphlets urging policemen to resign or face the consequences.

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