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Pakistan arrests Swat Taliban leader

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In the first major arrest of its kind in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, Pakistani authorities say they have taken into custody one of the Taliban’s leaders in Swat, along with four other commanders. Muslim Khan was the second in command of the Taliban in Swat, and became an official spokesman of both that group and the wider Tehrik-e-Taliban, an umbrella group of militants that includes fighters based in the country’s tribal areas.

The arrests displayed a rare bit of good police work, and may help bring a much needed boost of confidence in the Swat operation.

Both the international press and Pakistani’s domestic news have criticized the military’s operation in Swat as largely ineffective. Despite several months of fighting and the presence of tens of thousands of soldiers, no significant leaders of the Taliban have been captured in Swat. And the army has been accused of indiscriminately shelling villages and towns, killing civilians, while failing to make arrests on the ground.

The details of how Khan was apprehended are unclear. But the Pakistan Tribune reported today that the Taliban have claimed that Khan and the others were arrested after going to hold secret talks with the Pakistani military:

According to the Swat Taliban acting spokesman Salman, the fresh peace talks were mediated by one Kamal Khan, a resident of Deolai village in Swat resettled in the US. “This time we wanted to talk directly with the Army as the previous two peace deals with the ANP-led NWFP government didn’t work,” Salman argued.

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