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Pakistani Taliban Expand Control in Northwest

The Taliban in Pakistan are extending their reach in the northwest, prompting fears a recent peace deal has emboldened the militants.

Local officials in Buner district said armed militants from neighboring Malakand district have entered Buner and started setting up checkpoints and patrolling the area. Buner is about 160 kilometers from the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

Earlier this month, fighting erupted in Buner, after local security forces asked Taliban militants to leave. Several people were killed.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has signed an agreement to allow Islamic law (Sharia) in Malakand, which includes former ski resort Swat Valley, to end extremist violence in the region.

Criticism of the deal is growing in Pakistan and abroad, including among U.S. officials, with opponents saying the deal represents capitulation to militants.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's Interior Ministry chief, Rehman Malik, has accused Afghanistan and India of supporting ethnic Baluch rebels fighting in the southwestern province of Baluchistan.

Malik told parliament on Wednesday that Baluch separatists are being trained in camps in neighboring Afghanistan.

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