Pakistani military says it has arrested the spokesman
for the Taliban in the restive Swat valley along with four other wanted
"terrorists." This is the first major arrest in the region since the
government ordered a military offensive to regain control of the
northwestern valley and eliminate militants there.
Pakistani authorities say security forces
detained Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan and four other key militant
commanders in what they are describing "a successful" military raid
just outside the main town of Mingora in the Swat Valley.
notorious commander Mehmood Khan is among those the military has
arrested. An official military statement says that the militants are
being interrogated and troops are conducting raids on the information
obtained from them.
The security operations, says the
spokesman, are making "remarkable successes". He refused to give
further details about the detainees saying it may undermine the
anti-insurgency offensive in Swat.
Federal Interior Minister
Rehman Malik told reporters that militants have no option but surrender
because the government is determined to "either kill them or arrest
them." He reiterated that Pakistan does not plan to hold peace talks
with Taliban militants.
"I repeat no negotiations with the
terrorists. We are not going to spare anybody who challenges the writ
of the government," he said.
The arrests in Swat are the
latest blow for the Taliban insurgents in Pakistan whose chief
commander Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a suspected U.S missile attack
on his hide out in the South Waziristan region near the Afghan border.
launched a major offensive in and around Swat in late April to check
the Taliban advances in the northwestern mountainous valley, once a
popular tourist resort. The offensive came after the United States and
other western allies criticized the Pakistani military for failing to
rein in the extremists.
The military says the anti-insurgency
operation in the area has so far killed nearly 2,000 Taliban militants
and left more than 300 soldiers dead. Pakistani soldiers have cleared
much of the Swat valley and surrounding areas but they say there are
still pockets of resistance.
However, despite their successes,
the Pakistani security forces had failed to kill or capture top Taliban
leaders in the region until the announcement of spokesman Muslim Khan's
arrest along with four other commanders on Friday. The top leader of
the militants in Swat, Maulana Fazlullah, is still at large.
has praised the anti-insurgency operation in Swat and has given
significant financial assistance to help Pakistan repatriate hundreds
of thousands of families the offensive had displaced. Most of the
internal refugees have now returned to their homes with foreign-funded