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14 killed as Pak releases 12 militants

14 killed as Pak releases 12 militants

Author: Agencies
Publication: The Times of India
Date: March 9, 2009

Pakistani authorities have released 12 Taliban militants in a bid to consolidate a pact struck last month with Islamists in the troubled northwestern Swat valley, a senior government official said on Sunday. Another report quoted an official as saying Pakistani Taliban shot dead 14 security personnel a day after kidnapping them in a tribal region near the Afghan border.

The release of the 12 militants is likely to deepen global concerns that the policy of making pacts with radical Islamists is tantamount to appeasement and emboldens the militants.

"It was one of the demands of the Taliban. It was a goodwill gesture. We have fulfilled it and we hope now they will play their part for peace," said Swat commissioner Syed Mohammad Javed.

The Pakistani government, already facing an economic crisis, is also confronting a growing tide of militancy flowing out of the lawless tribal belt on the Afghan border and into cities and towns, mainly in the NWFP.

President Asif Ali Zardari has vowed his government will not negotiate with Taliban militants but NWFP authorities sealed the pact with Maulana Sufi Mohammad, an influential cleric in Swat who led violent protests by Islamists in the 1990s. Provincial authorities agreed to enforce Sharia law in Swat in the hope that Mohammad rein in the militants. Mohammad has set a deadline of March 15 for the government to enforce Sharia law. NWFP officials have assured him his demand will be met.

Mohammad this month called on the government and the Taliban to release each other's prisoners by March 10. The militants released seven government officials and soldiers last month.

Taliban militants announced a ceasefire on February 24 and Pakistani forces have also halted operations in Swat, a former tourist destination in the mountains just 130 km north of Islamabad. While businesses and schools have reopened in scenic Swat, critics doubt the deal will last long, saying earlier pacts were used by militants to consolidate their strength.

Reports from Islamabad quoted an official as saying that Pakistani Taliban shot dead 14 security personnel a day after kidnapping them in a tribal region near the Afghan border. The Taliban abducted the security personnel on Saturday after an exchange of fire in Mohmand Agency, assistant administrative officer Rasool Khan said.

Local residents found the bullet-riddled bodies of the security men in a mountainous area on Sunday. Security forces have launched a major operation against those responsible, witnesses said.

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