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September 12, 2009

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Pakistan nabs Swat Taliban men

PAKISTAN arrested the spokesman for the Taliban in the Swat Valley and four other senior commanders, the military said yesterday, in the latest of several victories against militants in the country's northwestern region close to Afghanistan.

The arrests are a coup for the military, which had been criticized for failing to capture or kill any top Taliban leaders in a four-month offensive in the Swat Valley that cleared the insurgents from most of the one-time tourist haven.

The army announced the arrests on the eighth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. Drawing attention to that fact, the military released photos of spokesman Muslim Khan and commander Mahmood Khan in custody with the date printed in bold underneath.

The Swat offensive has somewhat reassured the West that Pakistan is committed to fighting militants hiding out in its rugged northwest who are blamed for plotting and carrying out attacks on US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

An army statement said the two Khans and commanders Fazle Ghaffar, Abdul Rehman and Sartaj Ali were arrested in the suburbs of Mingora, the Swat Valley's main city. It did not say when. The Khans had bounties of 10 million rupees (US$121,000) on their heads, the army said.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik urged other commanders to surrender.

"This has been our policy from day one when we started the operation that there will be no negotiations with the terrorists," Malik said. "They have no other option. Either they get killed or get arrested."


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