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Taliban resumes patrols in Swat area

TALIBAN fighters have resumed armed patrols in the Swat Valley's main town, an official said yesterday, further imperiling a peace deal with the government that imposes Islamic law there and in surrounding areas.

The government has ordered a curfew for the entire valley from 9pm to 6am, said Khushal Khan, a top Swat administrator, and officials were discussing what to do if the militants violate the order.

Already yesterday, Pakistan's army accused the Taliban fighters of "gross violation" of the peace pact, blaming them for several acts of violence over the weekend in Swat, including the blasting of a bridge.

Also, two security personnel were discovered with their throats slit and their bodies and faces mutilated yesterday in Swat, a security official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to media.

The army's accusations came as the northwest province's government said it was fulfilling its end of the peace deal by establishing an Islamic appellate court for the area, though a cleric mediating the pact rejected the panel.

The carrot and stick approach has underscored the divisions and ambivalence in Pakistan's government over how best to tackle the spreading militancy.

It is a topic that will come up when Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari meets with United States President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai during a visit to Washington later this week.

The Taliban spokesman in Swat could not be reached for comment.

The Taliban hold heavy sway over Swat after two years of fighting with the army and other security forces.

The peace deal reached with them in February was aimed at fulfilling their demands for an Islamic justice system in the hope they would stop their bloody campaign.


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