Pakistan Swat leader aides arrested

Military takes into custody members of group close to Sufi Muhammed.

    The army launched an offensive in the area after
    the collapse of a peace deal [EPA]

    In depth


    Videos:
     
    Frontier police battle Pakistani Taliban
     Exclusive: Swat exodus continues
     Swat's fleeing Sikhs
     Inside war-torn Mingora city

    Pictures:
     
    Refuge for Swat's Sikhs
     Lahore bombing

     Diary: Imran Khan
     Riz Khan: Obama's 'AfPak' strategy
     Riz Khan: The battle for the soul of Pakistan
     Interview: Asif Ali Zardari
     Q&A: The struggle for Swat
     Your views: Crisis in Swat

    Focus:
     The fight for northwest Pakistan
    Talking to the Taliban
    Pakistan's war
     Witness: Pakistan in crisis

    Cleric Mohammad Wahab and three Afghan fighters were also arrested, Major-General Athar Abbas, the military's chief spokesman, said.

    "The army raided the seminary on an intelligence tip-off that a meeting of terrorists was in progress there," Athar Abbas told AFP.

    Sufi Muhammad struck a deal with the NWFP government in February to restore peace to Swat and surrounding areas by proposing to put three million people under Islamic law.

    But the deal collapsed in May when Taliban fighters advanced to districts within 100km of Islamabad more than six weeks ago.

    Under US pressure, Pakistan launched an offensive against Taliban fighters in the districts of Lower Dir, Buner and Swat after what Islamabad called violations of a ceasefire.

    The military has since said it has retaken large swaths of the region from the Taliban and is close to routing the group.

    But some residents have expressed anger at what they say is the high civilian toll and massive destruction from the army offensive.

    Humanitarian crisis

    The offensive has left an unknown number of people dead and displaced around 2.4 million people, according to the UN, in what rights groups call the largest internal displacement in more than half a century.

    Richard Holbrooke, right, called for urgent action to avert a humanitarian crisis [Reuters]
    Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy, who visited refugee camps in the Swat valley on Thursday to see the humanitarian crisis first-hand, urged European and Muslim nations to help avert a humanitarian crisis.

    "What I can't stress too highly enough is the job to get them home, and that requires security and assistance from the rest of the world community," he told reporters at the Shah Mansoor Camp, 80km northwest of Islamabad.

    "The reconstruction phase is going to cost as much as the humanitarian phase."

    Holbrooke is scheduled to meet Pakistani leaders on Friday to discuss the next phase of holding, securing and rehabilitating Swat after it has been cleared of the Taliban.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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