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Taliban in Northwest Pakistan Kidnap Official Despite Peace Talks

Pakistan's government says Taliban militants have kidnapped a government official and his six bodyguards in the Swat valley, despite ongoing peace talks there.

Authorities say Khushal Khan and his guards were abducted as they drove toward Mingora, the main town in Swat in northwestern Pakistan.

A spokesman for the Taliban confirms the official is with the militants, but characterizes Khan as a guest of the Taliban, not a hostage.

This development comes as Taliban militants in northwest Pakistan say they are considering whether to extend a cease-fire that is due to expire in a matter of days. But the militants deny that they have reached a permanent agreement, as local government officials had claimed.

The head of the hardline Taliban in Swat valley, Maulana Fazlullah, said in a radio announcement Saturday that militants will consider extending the 10-day cease-fire this week.

Fazlullah's father-in-law, Sufi Muhammad, who leads a separate Islamist group in Swat, reached an agreement last week with local officials to impose Islamic law (Sharia) in the region if his militants lay down their arms.

Taliban officials say Muhammad met with Fazlullah earlier this week to negotiate an end to fighting between militants and the government.

Militants from various factions operate in northwestern Pakistan. Some use the territory to launch attacks in neighboring Afghanistan, targeting local and international forces.

The United States and NATO have both expressed concern that the deal reached with militants last week could provide a safe haven for extremists in the already volatile region.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.