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Central & South Asia
Taliban say Fazlullah still 'alive'
Spokesman dismisses Pakistani government claim Taliban leader was wounded.
Last Modified: 23 Jul 2009 09:16 GMT
Pakistani forces have been battling Taliban fighters
in northwestern provinces [EPA]

The commander of the Taliban in Pakistan's northwestern Swat valley is alive and has not been wounded in battle, his spokesman has said.

Muslim Khan, speaking by telephone on Thursday from an undisclosed location, told the Reuters news agency: "He [Maulana Fazlullah] is alive. He was not wounded. All of the Taliban leadership is okay."

The Pakistani military, which did not comment on the spokesman's claim, had said earlier that Fazlullah had been seriously wounded.

Reports of Fazlullah being critically injured have circulated since Pakistani troops launched a major offensive in the Swat valley to drive out Taliban fighters from the region.

Fazlullah is the architect of a nearly two-year Taliban campaign to enforce a stricter interpretation of the sharia (Islamic law) in the Swat valley.

He has been on the run since the beginning of the army offensive in late April.

Bounty

Pakistan has offered a $615,000 reward for information leading to Fazlullah's death or capture.

Fazlullah and his supporters are believed to have beheaded opponents, burned schools and fought against  government troops since November 2007.

He is a son-in-law of the pro-Taliban religious leader Sufi Muhammad, who secured a government deal to put three million people in the northwest under the sharia in February.

The agreement later collapsed after Taliban fighters stormed several towns and the government responded by launching the military offensive.

Pakistan's northwestern region has become a stronghold for both al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters who fled Afghanistan following the US-led invasion that toppled the Taliban government in 2001.

Baitullah Mehsud, another Taliban leader who allegedly has ties to al-Qaeda, already has a $5m bounty on his head.

The US state department considers him "a key al-Qaeda facilitator in the tribal areas of South Waziristan".

Source:
Agencies
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