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Taliban using mosques as 'recruitment centres'

Taliban using mosques as 'recruitment centres'

Author: Rezaul H Laskar, Islamabad
Publication: The Indian Express
Dated: April 14, 2009

Introduction: Despite assurances to a tribal jirga last week that they would leave Buner, the militants have strengthened their hold here

Having forcibly taken over Buner district adjoining the Swat Valley, Taliban militants have begun using mosques in the area as "recruitment centers" to attract youths to join their ranks.

Almost all mosques in villages in Buner district are being used by the Taliban to recruit local residents for their cause of enforcing Shariah or Islamic law in the Malakand division, which includes Swat, and the rest of the country, media reports said on Monday.

The entry of the Taliban into Buner, which is about 100 km from Islamabad, has raised doubts in Pakistan about the intentions of the outfit. Armed bands of Taliban poured into Buner from neighbouring Swat and took control of the district after overcoming resistance from local tribesmen and officials.

The militants on Sunday placed villages in Chamla sub-district of Buner "under their protection and faced no resistance from law enforcement agencies. Despite assurances to a tribal jirga last week that they would leave Buner, the militants have instead strengthened their hold on the district.

Maulana Khalil, a Taliban leader from Swat, addressed a congregation in a mosque in Malakpur village where he was welcomed by derics and a large number of local. residents. He urged youths to come forward and shoulder the responsibility for enforcing Shariah in their areas.

Khalil said the movement for enforcing Shariah in Malakand division had started 20 years ago, but the peaceful campaign could not achieve results. Thus it had to be turned into an armed movement to enforce Shariah.

He also said the Tehrik-e-Taliban had to spread its message in the rest of Pakistan and youths must come forward to shoulder the responsibility in their own areas.

Other Taliban commanders asked youths across Buner to join their group to take control of their own localities. They said the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan has roots within and outside the country.

Local residents too are trying to "adjust their lifestyles" in accordance with the diktats of the Taliban, who entered Buner more than a week ago. A large number of them met the Taliban commanders at Pir Baba's shrine in Sultan was village, which is being used by militants as the base of their operations in Buner. Apart from the shrine of Pir Baba, the Taliban have set up bases in Pacha Bazaar, Sultanwas, Bagra,Manyarai and Gokand in Buner.

Buner's District Coordination Officer Jawed Ahmad said: "We are in touch with their (Taliban) leaders in Swat. The situation will return to normal in a few days." Local residents had entered into an agreement with the Taliban in Swat through a tribal elders' council, he said.

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