Senior Taliban arrested in Swat

Taliban spokesman and four others detained in northwest, Pakistan military says.

    The military says it has also captured Mahmood Khan, a senior Taliban commander [AFP]

    'Talks under way'

    Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder, reporting from Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, said the Taliban said some of the men had been negotiating with the military when they were arrested.

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    "The Taliban Swat spokesman Salman, who is officiating in the absence of Muslim Khan, said that the Taliban had started peace talks with the Pakistani military eight days ago," Hyder said.

    "He said this was a breach of trust and that there was a message from Mullah Fazlullah, who is the commander of the Swat Taliban, saying that these five members had been apprehended."

    He said Pakistani authorities had not confirmed peace talks were under way.

    "The important thing here is that if you have the key leadership of the Swat Taliban: could this be an opportunity to try and have some sort of a negotiation?

    "At the end of the day, the dialogue will have to be initiated at some stage. [The military] want the political leadership to come up with a solution to the problem."

    Swat offensive

    Pakistan's military launched a major offensive against the Taliban in Swat and neighbouring areas in the country's North West Frontier Province in April.

    The fighting displaced nearly two million people and left more than 1,800 Taliban fighters dead, according to the military.

    But analysts said that many of the fighters simply melted away into other areas in the face of the military onslaught.

    Sporadic skirmishes continue to take place, though Yusuf Reza Gilani, Pakistan's prime minister, has said that Taliban fighters had been "eliminated" in the region.

    Pakistan is under intense US pressure to crack down on fighters in its northwest along the Afghan border, especially the lawless tribal belt where Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, is believed to be hiding.

    The US has said the fighters use Pakistan's tribal areas and other troubled parts of the northwest as safe havens from which to plan attacks on Western troops across the frontier.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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